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Theology => Prophecy - Current Events => Topic started by: nChrist on April 14, 2008, 08:26:44 PM



Title: RELIGION TODAY
Post by: nChrist on April 14, 2008, 08:26:44 PM
San Antonio Film Festival Richly Rewards Movies with Biblical Worldviews
Robert Wayne


April 14, 2008

Even the nickname -- Tinseltown -- evokes the image of cheap glitter, which is why Doug Phillips wants to supplant the sequined secularism of Hollywood with movies that promote a thoroughly Christian worldview.

And he's willing to put money where his mouth is. Phillips is founder of the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival, which in January will award $101,000 -- the single largest film festival prize in the world -- to the best Christian film of 2008, one that promotes a clearly Biblical message with artistic excellence.

Phillips secured festival sponsorships with the NRB Nework as well as Samaritan Ministries to help fund the prize money (about $200,000 in all), not simply because he wants to put Christian filmmaking on the map but also to hopefully wipe Hollywood's influence off the globe.

"Hollywood is great at production values... where it's bad is that it's terrible with its worldview and ideas," Phillips said from his office in San Antonio, Texas, the festival's host city since 2004. "It's like a poisoned lollipop that you give to a child. It looks and tastes great but inside is poison. So our vision over the long haul is to build a replacement industry."

Christians who think Hollywood is softening toward their views should not be swayed by corporate attempts to "Christianize" movies, Phillips warned, citing the 2005 release of The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe and upcoming Prince Caspian -- both based on books in the Chronicles of Narnia series written by C.S. Lewis.

"Prince Caspian and The Dawn Treader (the third book/movie in the series) are becoming increasingly darker, more 21st Century teen rebellion and the occult," Phillips said, explaining that the mission and maxim of the SAICFF is that "every frame be captive to being obedient to Christ."

Phillips, who produces his own films/documentaries through his Vision Forum Ministries, stressed that he is not anti-media. In fact, he thinks media matters immensely.

"Media is important for the culture, which is why we want to see Christians break up the monopoly of Hollywood," he said. "That doesn't mean we necessarily want Bible verses slapped into scenes. We want more to take out the nudity and grossly-offensive language."

The SAICFF doesn't handcuff its festival entrants to a specific movie genre; just so every movie promotes a Christian worldview.

"Our films... are not about a particular topic or just about evangelism or outreach," Phillips said. "But a Biblical worldview must be implicit."

For example, the festival would frown upon any film promoting Marxist or evolutionary values, he said.

Casting of the movie also is important. Phillips pointed to the 2005 film End of the Spear as an example of poor casting, because the actor playing the lead role was a homosexual activist.

"Our official position is the filmmaker has a duty to determine to the best of his ability that there be no impediments to the gospel witness," he said. "I haven't said that every member of the crew or actor has to be Christian -- that might be the position I take for my own films -- but I have said that as to the key characters... make sure they're a Godly witness. We live in a society that makes idols out of actors."

Breaking the rules -- or the 10 commandments of film submission, as listed on the SAICFF website -- could mean missing out on big money. The $101,000 tops the next most lucrative film festival, in Tokyo, by more than $20,000. Two of the best-known festivals, Cannes and Sundance, are more about gaining prestige than money, Phillips said.

Much of the SAICFF strategy is to develop Christian filmmakers who will impact the culture in a bigger way than does Hollywood.

"We recognized this wasn't being done, so we had to do it," Phillips said, explaining that he anticipates interest in truly authentic Christian worldview moviemaking to increase in the next decade, not only because of the festival but because young, filmmakers will rise from the ranks -- often out of the homeschool movement.

"I would say that in the next 10 to 15 years you're going to see a lot of home educators who are doing small-budget films moving up to larger-budget films. They're going to be great filmmakers in the future," he said.

And he plans on the SAICFF to help lead the charge.

"Purse strings of liberal filmmakers have financed anti-Christian values and moral decadence through film for decades," he said. "They have had their day, and now is the time for a Christian reformation in filmmaking.

"This world-class grand prize sends a message that Christians are serious about investing in those independent Christian filmmakers who are willing to work outside of Hollywood, and to produce competitive films of technical excellence, with a presuppositionally biblical message."

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 14, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 14, 2008, 08:28:48 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 14, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Ghana's President Orders Schools To Reintroduce Religious And Moral Education
    * Algerian Christian Sentenced for 'Proselytism'
    * Obama: 'Creation Doesn't Hold Up to Scientific Inquiry'
    * Commission Urges President to Boycott Olympic Opening unless China Changes

Ghana's President Orders Schools To Reintroduce Religious And Moral Education

ASSIST News Service reports that President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana has instructed authorities of basic schools in the country to revisit the teaching of Religious and Moral Education (RME), which hitherto had been removed from the syllabus. President Kufuor made the call when he addressed school children at the country's 51st Independence Day celebration. The call was in response to persistent calls made particularly by Christians and Muslims for reintroduction of the subject in the schools' curricular. The president expressed displeasure about the negative moral impact of globalization on the youth through the mass media. He therefore urged the school children to balance their academic learning with that of their moral duty. "The television, the Internet and other modern gadgetry undermine cultures and moral values. The result is that humanity is already confronted with the challenge of a serious split between knowledge and morality. Unless mankind finds a way to overcome this challenge, there is a real danger of it becoming less than human," President Kufour told the students.

Algerian Christian Sentenced for 'Proselytism'


An Algerian Christian was handed a two-year suspended sentence for "proselytism" last week amid an ongoing government crackdown on 26 of Algeria's 50 Protestant congregations, a church leader said. A court in Tiaret delivered the written verdict after convicting the Christian on April 2, said Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant Church of Algeria. Prosecution of "proselytism" violates Article 18 of the U.N. Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which affirms the inherent right to publicly manifest one's faith, Compass Direct News reports. The Christian, who requested anonymity, plans to appeal the two-year suspended sentence and a 100,000 dinar fine.

Obama: 'Creation Doesn't Hold Up to Scientific Inquiry'

The York Daily Record recently interviewed democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama. Among the questions they asked was, "York County was recently in the news for a lawsuit involving the teaching of intelligent design. What's your attitude regarding the teaching of evolution in public schools?" Obama's response: "I'm a Christian, and I believe in parents being able to provide children with religious instruction without interference from the state. But I also believe our schools are there to teach worldly knowledge and science. I believe in evolution, and I believe there's a difference between science and faith. That doesn't make faith any less important than science. It just means they're two different things. And I think it's a mistake to try to cloud the teaching of science with theories that frankly don't hold up to scientific inquiry."

Commission Urges President to Boycott Olympic Opening unless China Changes

Baptist Press reports that China's crackdown on Tibetans' religious freedom has caused the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to urge President Bush not to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games this summer without marked improvement by the communist government. The 2008 Olympics, slated Aug. 8-24, already had stirred up controversy because of the selection of Beijing as the host. The government's continued abuse of Tibetans, among the worst examples of religious repression in China, has added to USCIRF's concerns, according to a commission statement released April 4. China's policies toward Tibet have fueled protests and resentment. The Chinese recently met what began as a peaceful protest by Buddhist monks in Tibet with sometimes lethal force. As many as 140 people died during the protests and crackdown, The Washington Post reported.

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Title: Christians Build Reverse Confessional on Campus
Post by: nChrist on April 15, 2008, 08:03:43 AM
Christians Build Reverse Confessional on Campus
Jeremy Reynalds

GAINESVILLE, FLORIDA -- A loosely constructed booth, made of PVC pipe and covered by maroon cloth, sat on the University of Florida at Gainesville's Plaza of the Americas recently.

According to a story by Katie Sanders and published in the University of Florida's Independent Alligator newspaper, a small one-word sign labeled "confessions," resulted in puzzled looks and passers-by slowing down. But there was no priest inside the box.

Instead, a group of Christian students were there to invite listeners. They wanted to apologize for what they called their own shortcomings in not living how Jesus intended. They're sorry for the bad image Christians might have on campus.

Russell McMullen, a UF sophomore involved with Campus Crusade for Christ, organized the reverse confessional.

"We used this to try and let people take a fair look at Christm and not just prejudge and write it off as a hateful and intolerant religion," McMullen told the Alligator.

He said some students who saw the booth were confused at first and thought they were being invited to confess their own sins. McMullen told the Alligator that he and his colleagues would be the ones giving the face-to-face confessions.

Judging, hurting and not showing love to people were named as the Christian group's transgressions, offered on behalf of the whole church.

According to the Alligator, McMullen didn't get more than 20 students inside the booth Wednesday, which stood under the trees on the Plaza, but he expected more throughout the week. The booth closed Friday.

Graham Wigle, a UF freshman, manned the booth while McMullen went to class. Wigle told the Alligator that students walking across campus often get inaccurate representations of Christianity from local sign-carrying preachers.

The confessional is also meant to encourage Christians to be more humble, he said.

"We're imperfect. We stink," Wigle told the Alligator. "We want to point people to the real Jesus."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 15, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 15, 2008, 08:05:26 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 15, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Hindu Radicals Storm Christian School in India
    * Earth Day, Christian Style?
    * IMB Appoints 92 New Missionaries
    * Christian Mission Center and Church Desecrated in India

Hindu Radicals Storm Christian School in India

ASSIST News Service reports that a group of Hindu radicals stormed St. Joseph's Convent Christian School in India. The incident occurred on April 7 at Raigad in Mahashtra State. According to a story on www.persecution.in, the radicals were demanding that photographs of Hindu deities be put up inside the school. The web site reported that when a school parent tried to argue with the approximately 50 radicals in support of the school administrator, a nun, he was assaulted in full view of everyone there. The school, which was established in 2002, serves children between kindergarten and the fourth grade. It caters to poor children from surrounding villages.

Earth Day, Christian Style?

A release from the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) states that with the celebration of Earth Day on April 22, the IRD is releasing the first in the Mt. Nebo Papers series, "What is the Most Important Environmental Task Facing American Christians Today?" by IRD Adjunct Fellow Dr. E. Calvin Beisner. Christians are called to wise stewardship of the Earth God created. However, a debate rages within the Christian community on what stewardship entails. Dr. Beisner's paper looks at not only what the Bible addresses as a good stewardship, but also what the church teaches historically, and finally makes recommendations. The IRD is offering the paper as a free downloadable resource on www.theird.org. Beisner commented: "Christians really need to face the challenge of triage--comparing the benefits and costs of various environmental policies and selecting those that will be the best stewardship. That's what this paper does."

IMB Appoints 92 New Missionaries

The International Mission Board on April 9 in Sunnyvale, Texas appointed 92 new missionaries to service, Baptist Press reports. "Why does God want the nations to know Him?" asked IMB President Jerry Rankin of more than 2,500 people gathered at Sunnyvale First Baptist Church. "It's because of the tragedy of lostness. Here in America we just can't imagine what it means to live in a place that's never heard the name of Jesus. To live a lifetime in futile search for your eternal destiny, never knowing that there's a Savior who died for you. We're so grateful... that you 92 new missionaries are taking a stand." The new missionaries represented a diverse cross-section, coming from churches across the country and many different walks of life. But Rankin noted a common thread -- a sense of urgency.

Christian Mission Center and Church Desecrated in India

ASSIST News Service reports that a group of Hindu radicals attacked a Christian Mission Center in India recently. According to a story reported by www.persecution.in, the attack occurred on April 5 in Ujjain, Madhya Pradesh State. The website also stated that in addition to desecrating the building, the fundamentalists also destroyed a number of religious materials. The Hindu fundamentalists reportedly began verbally abusing the female principal when she asked them to park in the appropriate area. The radicals also threatened a church official who attempted to assist the principal. The story reported that the attackers made allegations of forced conversions at the school, but no arrests have been made.

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Title: Senate Probe Targets 'Prosperity' Christians, Church Says
Post by: nChrist on April 16, 2008, 08:00:12 AM
Senate Probe Targets 'Prosperity' Christians, Church Says
Penny Starr

(CNSNews.com) - Kenneth Copeland Ministries, one of six so-called mega-churches at the center of a U.S. Senate Finance Committee investigation, has informed the committee that it will not cooperate with the probe, citing its concerns about the government targeting certain Christian churches, as well as concerns about privacy and potential First Amendment violations.

"The church is deeply concerned that the information Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is seeking could be used to subject the church and its members to public stigma, scorn, and obloquy," Lawrence Swicegood, communications director for Kenneth Copeland Ministries (KCM), said in a letter responding to the committee's request for a range of financial data and other information, including the names and addresses of board members and the names and addresses of people responsible for the church's audio and video production.

"The church also has grave concerns with the conclusion that this inquiry 'does not infringe upon First Amendment rights,'" said Swicegood.

"The six ministries under investigation all share a common theology based on the sincerely held religious belief that prosperity in all areas of one's life is an outward sign of the fulfillment of God's promises contained in the Bible," he added.

The church also issued a press release on April 9 stating that it had requested a financial inspection by the Internal Revenue Service, saying the agency was better suited to review KCM's financial integrity while keeping the information private.

"We told the IRS in a letter that we welcome them to come and make inquiry of us and we will provide answers to the IRS regarding questions that Senator Grassley has," said John Copeland, CEO of Eagle Mountain International Church and KCM. "The Church desires to protect its and all other churches' First Amendment rights."

The committee, chaired by Max Baucus (D-Mont.) with Grassley as ranking member, sent the first letter to six churches (or ministries) in early November of last year and issued a second letter on March 11 to four ministries it said had failed to comply with the original request or, as in the case of KCM, had not answered sufficiently.

On March 31, the committee reported that Benny Hinn Ministries, the Randy and Paula White Ministries, Joyce Myer Ministries and Eddie Long Ministries had either complied or intended to comply. In addition to KCM, the committee said Creflo Dollar Ministries had not complied with the committee's request.

Grassley's office told Cybercast News Service that the investigation was sparked by "individuals who have identified concerns and made them public and/or brought them to the attention of the Finance Committee."

Press releases issued by the committee on March 12 and March 31, claim the investigation is less about uncovering violations by these ministries than it is to "gauge the effectiveness of certain tax-exempt policies."

"This ought to clear up any misunderstanding about our interest and the committee's role," Grassley said. "We have an obligation to oversee how the tax laws are working for both tax-exempt organizations and taxpayers. Just like with reviews of other tax-exempt organizations, I look forward to the cooperation of these ministries in the weeks and months ahead."

At least one Christian organization disagrees with KCM's refusal to cooperate with the Senate investigation.

"We don't think it's the best approach to wrap yourself in the First Amendment," Kenneth A. Behr, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) told Cybercast News Service. "We believe that financial transparency is one of the cornerstones of financial integrity."

None of the six churches or ministries under investigation are members of the ECFA.

Swicegood said that churches are not like any other tax-exempt organizations, as implied by the committee.

"Churches are unique in that any inquiry into the financial affairs of a church raises the potential for excessive government entanglement with religious liberties," he said.

Swicegood also cited a noted religious scholar who said he was leery of a Senate investigation that focuses on "Word of Faith" churches, whose members believe individual prosperity is tangible evidence of God's blessings.

"It appears the inquiry is aimed at publicly questioning the religious beliefs of the targeted churches, their ministers, and their members while ignoring televangelists of other denominations," Vinson Synan, historian and dean emeritus of the School of Divinity at Regent University, said.

"This violates the fundamental tenet of the First Amendment that the government should not single out any religion because of its beliefs," Synan said.

"It also raises the question of religious bias against the Pentecostals and Charismatics who now number almost 70,000,000 Americans, according to a Pew Survey," Synan added.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 16, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 16, 2008, 08:02:15 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 16, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Asking about Religious Freedom Violations in Uzbekistan is Considered Stupid
    * New Study Offers Healing from Abortion
    * 'Nazi' Pope Runs 'Child-Abusing Cult,' Says HBO's Maher
    * Romania: Missions Remain Strong while Bucharest Summit Fragile

Asking about Religious Freedom Violations in Uzbekistan is Considered Stupid

ASSIST News Service reports that several Protestants have been detained in separate raids on churches in Samarkand, Uzbekistan since the beginning of April. According to an article by Forum 18 News Service, church member Bobur Aslamov remains in detention at an unknown location, following a raid on a meeting of a charismatic Protestant church in a private home in the central city of Samarkand on April 3. And in a raid on a Full Gospel service in the capital Tashkent on the evening of April 9, church leader Serik Kadyrov and four others were held in custody overnight before being freed. Begzot Kadyrov, the leading specialist of the government's Religious Affairs Committee in Tashkent, refused to discuss the detention of the Protestants in early April or any of the other recent harassment of religious communities. "Don't disturb us with stupid questions about religious liberties," he told Forum 18 on 10 April. "How many times do I have to explain to you stupid people: write an official letter to the Foreign Ministry."

New Study Offers Healing from Abortion

Some women "tuck an abortion away for many, many years," said Pat Layton, author of Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion, according to Baptist Press. "[T]he secret of abortion is that every woman still thinks she is the only one." But at least half of American women experience an unintended pregnancy by age 45 and, at current rates, about one-third undergo an abortion, according to statistics released by the Guttmacher Institute. Layton wrote her Surrendering the Secret study a number of years ago in response to dealing with her own abortion. The Bible study now has been released by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. "I wrote it after becoming a Christian and realizing the church had very little knowledge on how to deal with abortion and its effect on women," Layton said on an Inside LifeWay podcast. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 43 percent of those having abortions identify themselves as Protestant. The eight-week study includes a 20-30 minute video introduction that supports each week's lesson in helping women through the post-abortion healing process.

'Nazi' Pope Runs 'Child-Abusing Cult,' Says HBO's Maher

According to CNSNews.com, comments by HBO's Bill Maher insulting the Pope and calling Catholicism a "cult" that promotes "organized pedophilia" have stirred resentment among many American Catholics upset he would say this the week before Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States. The comments were made on HBO's "Real Time with Bill Maher" on Friday, Apr. 11. Maher went into a long monologue on his program comparing the Catholic church to a polygamous cult -- the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints -- which was raided on Apr. 3 and whose founder, Warren Jeffs, was convicted last year for being an accessory to the rape of a teenage girl. Maher compared the Texas scandal and its latest alleged abuse with the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Catholic Church in the United States in 2002. "I'd like to tip off law enforcement to an even larger child-abusing religious cult," Maher told his audience. "Its leader also has a compound, and this guy not only operates outside the bounds of the law, but he used to be a Nazi and he wears funny hats. That's right, the Pope is coming to America this week and, ladies, he's single." Catholic League President Bill Donohue responded that Maher "lied when he said the Pope 'used to be a Nazi.' Like all young men in Germany at the time, he was conscripted into a German Youth organization (from which he fled as soon as he could). Every responsible Jewish leader has acknowledged this reality and has never sought to brand the Pope a Nazi. That job falls to Maher."

Romania: Missions Remain Strong while Bucharest Summit Fragile

In spite of the disappointments and fractious international relationships surfacing at the recent NATO summit in Bucharest, there is good news coming out of Romania, ASSIST News Service reports. Karleen R. Dewey, a missionary to Romanian orphans since 1991, says that while hope for the future union of eastern European countries has floundered politically, ministry to Romania's orphans continues. "Some must wonder whether international government organizations are relevant in the 21st century. Or, are Christian missions progressing in former communist countries where governments cannot?" she writes. "Good news is coming out of Romania. Children once abandoned are placed in foster homes. Romanian adoptions are encouraged. Fewer babies are being abandoned in hospitals," she said. Dewey says that 20-30 volunteers have come to the small community of Marghita from Sweden, Scotland, England, Canada, Germany and the US to care for abandoned children from infants to young adults. In 2000, the Loving Arms team from Mercy Ministries began annual mission trips to Marghita, Romania, to offer summer camps, held in the Black Forest of Transylvania, to teen orphans. After retiring, Karleen and her husband Fred moved to Marghita, Romania in 2005 where they have a "hands on" ministry to teen orphans.


Title: Pope Hails America's Founding Principles
Post by: nChrist on April 20, 2008, 01:00:01 AM
Pope Hails America's Founding Principles
Terence P. Jeffrey

(CNSNews.com) - In a speech delivered on the South Lawn of the White House on Wednesday morning, Pope Benedict XVI spoke positively of America's Founding Fathers and lauded the principles they embraced in creating the United States.

The pope's address referenced the Declaration of Independence and drew a parallel between the views of his predecessor, the late John Paul II, and those that former President George Washington expressed in his Farewell Address.

"From the dawn of the Republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the creator," said the pope.

"The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that all men are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the laws of nature and of nature's God," he added.

The Holy Father also said that he perceived the "soul" of America to have been forged by a history he viewed as a struggle to bring the nation's founding principles fully into force.

"The course of American history demonstrates the difficulties, the struggles, and the great intellectual and moral resolve which were demanded to shape a society which faithfully embodied these noble principles," he said.

"In that process, which forged the soul of the nation, religious beliefs were a constant inspiration and driving force, as for example in the struggle against slavery and in the civil rights movement," the pope said.

In our time, too, particularly in moments of crisis, Americans continue to find their strength in a commitment to this patrimony of shared ideas and aspirations," he added.

Pope Benedict then noted that both John Paul II and George Washington believed that free societies were dependent on the religious convictions and moral rectitude of the people.

"Few have understood this as clearly as the late Pope John Paul II," he said. "In reflecting on the spiritual victory of freedom over totalitarianism in his native Poland and in Eastern Europe, he reminded us that history shows time and again that 'in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation,' and a democracy without values can lose its very soul.

"Those prophetic words in some sense echo the conviction of President Washington, expressed in his Farewell Address, that religion and morality represent 'indispensable supports' of political prosperity," the pope added.
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Title: U.S. Watchdog on Religious Freedom Urges China Not to Repatriate North Koreans
Post by: nChrist on April 20, 2008, 01:02:18 AM
U.S. Watchdog on Religious Freedom Urges China Not to Repatriate North Koreans
Jeremy Reynalds


April 18, 2008

WASHINGTON -- A U.S. watchdog on religious freedom urged China on Tuesday to stop repatriating refugees to North Korea, where it said returning asylum seekers are often tortured in an effort to suppress Christianity.

Writing for Reuters News Service, David Morgan reported the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said in a 49-page report that North Korea employs stringent security measures to stop the spread of religion, especially Protestant Christianity.

Some of the worst treatment is handed out to refugees sent back to North Korea from China, Reuters reported the commission said.

"The forcible repatriation of refugees from China remains an issue of special concern," said its report on North Korea, titled "A Prison Without Bars."

Reuters said the report continued, "If it is discovered that (refugees) have either converted to Christianity while in China or had contact with South Koreans -- both of which are considered to be political offenses -- they reportedly suffer harsh interrogation, torture and ill-treatment."

Refugees can also be sent to forced labor camps and prisons, often without trial, the report said.

Reuters reported the commission called on the international community to pressure Beijing to stop repatriating refugees, and provide increased protections as required by international protocols.

"Such action should begin immediately as China prepares to host the 2008 Summer Olympics," the report said.

Hundreds of thousands of people are believed to have fled North Korea in the 1990's, during a famine that killed at least 1 million people in a country of 23 million, Reuters reported aid agencies say.

Reuters reported that the U.S. government estimates there are 30,000 to 40,000 North Korean refugees still living in China, according to the commission. But the panel said humanitarian aid agencies believe the number remains near the 100,000 range.

Reuters said that China typically views asylum seekers as economic refugees and returns them to North Korea, which has long had a poor human rights record.

U.S. findings, based on interviews with 32 refugees and six former North Korean security agents, said many returning refugees are tortured to determine why they left the country.

Reuters said that according to the commission, Pyongyang views new religious activity as a security threat in a country dominated by the personality cult that surrounds North Korean leader Kim Jong Il and his family.

North Korean security agents especially target those thought to have visited Chinese churches for food aid or other forms of assistance.

Reuters reported that former North Korean security agents told the commission that authorities set up bogus prayer meetings to entrap new converts in North Korea, and train staff in Christian practices, for the purposes of infiltrating churches in China.

"There continues to be a pressing need on the international level for further, more effective action that addresses the ongoing repression of religious freedom and other human rights in North Korea and the problems of North Korean refugees in China," said Commission Chairman Michael Cromartie.

At the report's launching, the AFP News Service reported Republican Senator Sam Brownback charged that Beijing's continued repatriation of North Korean refugees, despite reports about their victimization on their return, "highlighted China's role as the great enabler of human rights abuses."

The AFP reported Brownback added, "There is a dismal record of China in Tibet; there is a dismal record of China in Darfur; there is a dismal record of China in the treatment of North Korean refugees."

Brownback called on China to stop the "abuses," the AFP reported.

Brownback accused China, the AFP reported, of defying its own agreement with the United Nations by refusing to give the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees access to the North Korean refugees, who had to "face death and imprisonment" on their repatriation.

The commission responsible for the report was created by Congress in 1998. It is funded in entirety by the U.S. government. Its commissioners are appointed by Congress and the White House.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 17, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 20, 2008, 01:04:16 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 17, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Overwhelming Response to Evangelistic Campaign in Poland
    * Algeria's Religious Rights Abuses Criticized at UN
    * Evangelicals Give Mixed Reactions to Pope's Visit
    * China Slammed For Return Of North Korean Refugees

Overwhelming Response to Evangelistic Campaign in Poland

ASSIST News Service reports that the response to the evangelistic campaign ProChrist in Poland has overwhelmed the organizers. Approximately 20,000 visitors began a new life in Christ. Roughly 80,000 took part in the event April 6 -- 13. Programs were transmitted via TV satellite from Katowice in Southern Poland to 103 venues in the whole country. More than 26,700 persons flocked to the sports arena "Spondek" in Katowice to witness the Polish programs. Only the sermons by German evangelist Ulrich Parzany were translated. Roughly 10,600 decisions for Christ were registered in Katowice alone. During the closing night Parzany asked only those to come forward who wished to make a decision to follow Christ for the first time in their life. As a result, 1,500 went to the cross near the platform. Parzany said he had never witnessed such a strong response.

Algeria's Religious Rights Abuses Criticized at UN

Following an increase in church closures and convictions of Christians in Algeria this year, a United Nations body this week questioned Algerian delegates on an "alarming deterioration" of religious freedom there, Compass Direct News reports. Participants at Monday April 14th's Human Rights Council review in Geneva cast the issue of religious rights abuses in Algeria into the spotlight. Algeria's 2006 decree threatens up to five years imprisonment and a 1 million dinar fine for anyone attempting to convert a Muslim to another religion. In response to the criticisms, Algerian delegate Lazhar Soualem said the 2006 decree had been enacted to stop "people who are not skilled, and who are not qualified and who are not authorized to exercise religious rights."

Evangelicals Give Mixed Reactions to Pope's Visit

The Christian Post reports that evangelical leaders are expressing mixed reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's first U.S. visit. Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council, lauded Pope Benedict XVI and said there was "no better time" for the U.S. to receive the Pope and hear from the "moral ambassador." Perkins said that despite theological differences between Catholics and Protestants, "devout" members of both bodies share more in common than they do with "liberals in their own camp." However, others such as Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminded the public that the Pope is a staunch defender of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and that it is not likely that evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church will bridge differences.

China Slammed For Return Of North Korean Refugees

According to a Religion News Service release, a United States commission said Tuesday that North Korean refugees suspected of meeting with religious groups are often marked for harsh interrogation, torture and long detentions without trial after they are forced by China to return to the North Korea. A report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom called for nations to press China to stop sending North Korean refugees back to their homeland. Open Doors USA, along with other members of the North Korea Freedom Coalition, are partnering during North Korea Freedom Week (NKFW) April 26-May 3. During that week the United States and other countries around the world will focus on the massive human rights abuses by the North Korean communist government headed by President Kim Jong Il. The North Korea Freedom Coalition is also urging China to stop the repatriation of North Korean refugees.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 18, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 20, 2008, 01:06:09 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 18, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * International Human Rights Leaders Gather to Discuss Religious Persecution in Middle East
    * Court Tells Coach He Can't Kneel or Bow Head When Team Prays
    * One Year after Murders in Turkey, One Man Blamed
    * Ohio Teacher, Told to Remove Bible From Students View, Refuses

International Human Rights Leaders Gather to Discuss Religious Persecution in Middle East

U.S. government officials and international human rights leaders will convene in Washington on Friday for the Congressional Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East. Caucus members will discuss the effects the War in Iraq has had on religious minorities and work directly with federal policymakers to address the challenges of religious persecution in the Middle East. "With religious persecution in Iraq continuing to intensify every day, the time is now for government leaders in the United States to take action," said Dr. Keith Roderick, D.C.-based representative of Christian Solidarity International, an advocacy organization for victims of religious persecution. "Policymakers need to help create conditions that allow displaced Christians and other non-Muslim minorities to return to their homes and live and practice their faith in peace."

Court Tells Coach He Can't Kneel or Bow Head When Team Prays


The Newark Star-Ledger reports that a federal appeals court has ruled the East Brunswick school board was within its rights to tell football coach Marcus Borden he cannot kneel and bow his head as members of his team have a student-led pre-game prayer. The ruling from the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia reversed a lower-court ruling made almost two years ago. The judges agreed the policy barring school staff from joining in student-led was constitutional, but differed on what exactly a coach should do when his team prays. Borden has coached the team since 1983. He used to be deeply involved in team prayers, and for a while even led them. But in 2005 school officials received complaints that he was leading prayers and asked him to stop. Ronald Riccio, Borden's attorney, commented, "The supreme court should hear this case because so far, there have been four judges who rendered an opinion that's different from the other's decision... This is primed for the supreme court."

One Year after Murders in Turkey, One Man Blamed

On the eve of the one-year mark of the slaughter of three Christians in Turkey, the impartiality of the judges in the case is in doubt, and the young men on trial have now shifted the blame to one man. Accused killers Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim and Salih Gurler had been caught at the scene of the crime on April 18, 2007, butcher knives in their hands and the blood of the victims on their clothing. But like Hamit Ceker, the first suspect to testify in January, the three suspects declared at the fifth hearing on Monday April 14 that they had not participated in the actual killings of Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske. Instead, in Malatya Third Criminal Court they claimed it was Emre Gunaydin, the fifth culprit and alleged ringleader of the attack, who personally tortured and then slit the throats of the three Christians, Compass Direct News reports.

Ohio Teacher, Told to Remove Bible From Students View, Refuses

According to FOX News, "An Ohio middle school teacher says he won't obey an order to remove a Bible from view of students. John Freshwater said Wednesday he agreed to remove a collage from his classroom that included the Ten Commandments, but that asking him to remove the Bible on his desk goes too far. Officials with the Mount Vernon School District say they don't oppose religion but are required by the U.S. Constitution not to promote or favor any set of religious beliefs. Freshwater says being forced to keep the Bible out of sight would infringe on his rights."
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Title: Pope's Visit Highlights Evangelical-Catholic Differences, Similarities
Post by: nChrist on April 21, 2008, 08:37:42 PM
Pope's Visit Highlights Evangelical-Catholic Differences, Similarities
Mickey Noah


April 21, 2008

ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- As Pope Benedict XVI visits the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention's 16 million members and North America's 75 million Catholics agree on some doctrinal matters but not all.

Catholics and Southern Baptists believe in the Trinity, the deity of Jesus Christ, the virgin birth and that Jesus was sinless, died on the cross for man's sins, rose again and ascended to heaven.

"When you're talking to Catholics, you don't have to convince them to believe in God, Jesus Christ or the Bible," said Tal Davis, interfaith coordinator in the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board's evangelization group. "Most Catholics do. But there are still significant differences."

Davis added that Catholics have moderated their views of Southern Baptists and other evangelicals over the last 30-40 years, and for the better.

"We're never going to completely change each other's minds, but we do agree on a host of public policy issues," said Davis, citing "life issues" such as abortion, stem-cell research and euthanasia. Both groups are close on other moral issues such as the promotion of family life values and the war against drugs.

Davis said Catholics generally tend to be more liberal on other national issues, such as war and the death penalty, issues on which the Vatican has taken particularly strong stances.

At one time, the Roman Catholic Church considered Protestants and evangelicals to be apostates -- defectors from the faith. In the last few decades, there has been ecumenical dialogue among the Vatican and a number of other denominations that did not include the SBC. However, last year, the Vatican released a statement re-asserting that non-Catholic churches were defective or not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

The definition of "church" is one major contrast between the two.

Southern Baptists understand the church both as a local body of baptized believers and as the universal body of Christ which includes the redeemed of all the ages.

According to Davis, Catholics believe the true church is the Roman Catholic Church, God's "church on earth" -- a highly structured and regimented institution across the globe, including some 1 billion members, 16 percent of the world's population.

"Second to Christianity itself, the Roman Catholic Church is, in fact, the oldest-organized, longest-lasting institution on earth, dating back to the sixth century. The Catholic Church is headed by a Pope who Catholics deem as having infallible authority, the successor to Peter," Davis said.

Southern Baptists reject the notion of an earthly hierarchy and instead believe in the New Testament model of spiritual authority being vested in the local church. They also believe in the New Testament teaching about the individual's accountability for salvation.

Another NAMB expert on Catholicism is Bill Gordon, resourcing consultant for the board's personal and mass evangelism team.

Gordon said that compared to some groups, Catholics are easier to discuss the Gospel with because they and evangelicals share common doctrine and beliefs.

"With faiths such as the New Age movement, there is nothing in common with evangelicals. New Agers believe they are God. Evangelicals have little in common with Mormons who don't believe in the Trinity or with Muslims who don't believe Jesus died on the cross."

Gordon and Davis both agree two sticking points between evangelicals and Catholics are their respective views on salvation and sin.

"Catholics and Southern Baptists agree Jesus died on the cross and rose again to atone for our sins. But Catholics see salvation as a lengthy process requiring the seven sacraments," Davis said. These sacraments include baptism at birth, confirmation, the Eucharist, holy orders, anointing of the sick, matrimony and penance.

"To get access to the grace of God, Catholics have to go through the Catholic Church and the sacraments. We Southern Baptists think that's unnecessary and, in fact, is a hindrance to God. We go straight to Jesus Christ for salvation by faith alone. No works are involved. You can't save yourself and you can't add anything to God's plan of salvation," Davis said.

Gordon said another major difference between the Catholic Church and evangelicals is each group's definition of sin.

Catholics differentiate between two types of sin -- mortal sins and venial sins, Gordon said. Mortal sins are more serious than venial sins.

"They recognize they are sinners but think their sins are only venial or minor, and that they can take care of venial sins themselves through good works and purgatory, a temporary place after death.

"Most Catholics don't see the need for salvation because they don't consider their sins as mortal, the major sins that can send a soul to hell if not confessed to a priest." Gordon added that according to statistics, only about 26 percent of Catholics go to confession once a year or more.

Gordon said evangelicals, on the other hand, believe any sin is enough to send a person to hell. They also believe sin should be confessed immediately and directly to God.

"And this major difference in the definition of sin is a barrier. We think we've communicated with them but then get frustrated because they still don't see the need for salvation because they think their sins are only minor," Gordon said.

Southern Baptists are not disrespecting Catholics when they share the Gospel -- as they believe it -- with their Catholic friends, Davis said.

"We're not disrespecting them and while we obviously disagree with them, we're just being true to our own beliefs and faith," Davis said.

Davis offers these tips for evangelicals sharing their faith with Catholics:

    * be clear on your own Christian faith and what you believe.
    * become more informed on what Catholics believe.
    * develop a friendly relationship and get to know the person.
    * let them see Christ in you.
    * don't get sidetracked by the thorny issues and don't even make Catholicism the issue. Don't debate. Start with God, Jesus and the things Baptists and Catholics hold in common.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 21, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 21, 2008, 08:39:56 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 21, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Penitent Pope Meets Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests
    * Christian Bookstore Owner Re-Arrested in China
    * France Unable to Save Crumbling Churches
    * Christian Leaders Call 'Expelled' a Must-See Movie

Penitent Pope Meets Victims of Sexual Abuse by Priests

ASSIST News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI met victims of sexual abuse by American clergy on April 17 in the most dramatic signal yet of his efforts to atone for the scandal that has inflicted heavy damage on the Catholic Church in the United States. According to a London Times story, the meeting took place in the chapel of the Vatican mission in Washington and came as he continued to place the issue of priestly abuse of minors over the past 30 years and the Church's slow response to it at the forefront of his first visit to the US. Baker stated that a Vatican spokesman said that the pontiff spent time with a group of victims. "They prayed with the Holy Father, who afterward listened to their personal accounts and offered them words of encouragement and hope," he said. "His Holiness assured them of his prayers for their intentions, for their families and for all victims of sexual abuse." Baker's story went on to say, "Chief Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said there was a lot of emotion in the room and some victims cried. Each one then spoke personally with the Pope.

Christian Bookstore Owner Re-Arrested in China

According to Compass Direct News, a bookstore owner in Beijing has been re-arrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature after he had been released in January due to "insufficient evidence." Shi Weihan, a 37-year-old father of two, was re-arrested on March 19 and has been held without any family visits allowed, according to his wife Zhang Jing. Shi was first arrested on November 28, 2007, and held until January 4. His wife said she had received no word on her husband's condition, and she has been prohibited from bringing him any food or change of clothing since his re-arrest. Zhang said she is "very concerned" about her husband's health, as he has diabetes. Another bookstore owner, Zhou Heng, was arrested and detained in Xinjiang province on August 3, 2007 for receiving a shipment of Bibles. Zhou revealed last week that he had been cleared of charges and released from prison on February 19.

France Unable to Save Crumbling Churches

An Associated Press story states that the dilemma of what to do with tens of thousands of churches that have fallen out of favor -- and into disrepair -- is facing towns and villages across France and other European countries. Some have converted old churches into housing, while other churches deemed too expensive to maintain were torn down. In France, fewer than 5 percent of the nation's 62 million people attend Mass every week, down from 27 percent a half-century ago. One village, at a cost of $2.13 million -- less than half the cost of a restoration -- is building a new church built around the bell tower of the existing structure. Even in communities where there is still a church-going presence, the old cathedrals are too large and lack intimacy. "It's five times too big for the congregation that usually comes. People prefer a more modern church, that's more cheerful and warm, instead of a huge one where they get lost in all the space," said one mayor. Famous cathedrals that are viewed as jewels of religious architecture are not in danger, as they have funding from the national government.

Christian Leaders Call 'Expelled' a Must-See Movie

According to Baptist Press, the Ben Stein documentary "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" explores the ongoing academic, legal and cultural battle between supporters of Darwinian evolution and Intelligent Design. During the 90-minute, PG-rated film, Stein talks to people on both sides of the debate, and in a climactic scene, interviews noted atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins. The movie's premise is simple: Supporters of Intelligent Design are being "expelled" -- fired, shunned or ridiculed (or all three) -- from institutions for their beliefs. Pro-family leaders, including Focus on the Family's James Dobson and the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's Richard Land, have given the film thumbs up. "Expelled is a wonderful movie," Land said on the April 17 broadcast of "For Faith and Family" in which he interviewed Stein. "I think it should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand what is going on and what is at stake in the debate over worldviews in this society."
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Title: Shari'a-Compliant Financing Described As New Islamist Threat
Post by: nChrist on April 22, 2008, 01:20:11 PM
Shari'a-Compliant Financing Described As New Islamist Threat
Pete Winn

Washington (CNSNews.com) - Radical Islamists not only want to destroy America with bombs and weapons of mass destruction, they also are infiltrating U.S. financial markets and influencing the flow of credit and capital, according to the Center for Security Policy (CSP), a conservative think-tank.

CSP President Frank Gaffney, a former Reagan administration assistant secretary of defense, has launched a national campaign to counter what he calls "an insidious threat" -- shari'a-compliant finance.

He says U.S. financial institutions and businesses engaged in shari'a-compliant financing are exposing themselves to civil and criminal liability. That type of investment poses a serious risk not only for U.S. financial institutions but also for ordinary investors and the national security of the United States, he said.

The finance method involves investments or transactions that have been structured to conform with the 7th century code of Islamic law, which is known as shari'a. Prohibitions include financial transactions involving interest, excessive uncertainty, or assets such as alcohol, tobacco, pork or gambling.

Gaffney said shari'a-compliant financing "legitimizes and institutionalizes" repressive Islamic law that conflicts with Western values.

"Shari'a-compliant finance, also known as 'Islamic finance' or 'Islamic banking,' is a vehicle for effecting in America and in other Western capital markets, what its proponents have called 'financial jihad' -- a kind of soft jihad, but one arguably going after the lifeblood of our capitalist system and economy," Gaffney told a briefing of Capitol Hill staffers Friday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Gaffney said the shari'a code is is best known for beheadings, floggings, and amputations for petty crimes.

"Shari'a is a totalitarian program for bringing about a global caliphate (Islamic kingdom), for ruling the world, for governing religious conduct, personal practices and family relations," he said.

Shari'a-compliant financing is becoming more popular as a way to tap into petrodollars. Even Dow Jones has created its own Islamic Index for shari'a-correct investments, Gaffney said.

How does it work?

Gaffney said that shari'a-compliant instruments are now being offered for everything from zero-coupon bonds to hedge funds to mutual funds to life insurance.

To offer these products or investments as shari'a-compliant, financial companies must submit to "shari'a advisers"-- almost all of whom are Islamist ideologues. Many of the advisers are dedicated to the destruction of the United States, Gaffney said.
These advisors "bless" the products or investments, certifying that they have been modified in such a way as to involve no interest payments, no speculation and no investments in proscribed items such as pork or alcohol or tobacco.

"It puts (Islamist ideologues) in a position whereby they can steer very substantial capital and credit flows to activities they favor - and away from activities they don't favor," Gaffney said.

The boards frequently are made up of shari'a "advisers" who are either Islamists or have ties to Islamist organizations such as Hamas or Hizballah, Gaffney said.

"As a result, you may wind up hiring people like a fellow named Sheikh Usmani, who has published works explicitly calling for violent jihad against America," he said.

Usmani reportedly has links to Harvard University, and Gaffney is calling on Harvard's board of trustees to disclose its ties to shari'a-compliant funds this weekend (April 17-19), during the university's eighth annual forum on Islamic finance.

Harvard itself, Gaffney said, is "bending over backwards" to accommodate shari'a law to attract Islamic investment.

"(There are) separate hours for Muslim women to exercise at Harvard University so that they can dress immodestly without being immodest, (and) there are calls to prayer, for that matter, being issued on the Quad at Harvard," he added.

Gaffney noted that those who speak against shari'a in the Muslim world face possible death sentences. He cited psychiatrist Dr. Wafa Sultan, a Muslim woman forced into hiding in America for being "a courageous opponent of shari'a law and Islamist extremism."

Sultan garnered death threats from Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi, the head of the European Council on Fatwa and Research, and one of the driving forces behind shari'a-compliant finance.

America, Gaffney warned, must either proactively address the issue of shari'a law now, or face it later when it has ensnared the financial markets.

"Later we will find ourselves dead or enslaved," he concluded. "And we enable them, and we empower them and we underwrite them at our extreme peril."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 22, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 22, 2008, 01:22:19 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 22, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Four Christian Teachers Murdered in Somalia
    * Israeli Court Sides with Messianic Jews
    * Vietnam Church Laments State Discrimination, Interference
    * U.S. Pastor Given More Than 3 Years in Prison for Bringing Rifle Shells Into Russia

Four Christian Teachers Murdered in Somalia

ASSIST News Service reports that four Christian teachers, two of them converts from Islam, were murdered by Islamic militants Sunday April 13 in Beledweyne in south-central Somalia. According to the UK-based Barnabas Fund, Mr. Daud Assan Ali, 64, Ms. Rehana Ahmed, 32, both of Somali origin, and two Kenyans were shot and killed when militants stormed the school where the Christians were sleeping. "Both Mr. Ali and Ms. Ahmed lived in the UK and were converts from Islam to Christianity," said a spokesperson for Barnabas Fund. "Mr. Ali returned to his home town in 2004 to realize his life-long dream of establishing a school. The Hiran community education project Private English School was only completed one month ago. In his blog for supporters of the school, Mr. Ali expressed concern about night-time raids by militant fighters in his last posting on March 30." A spokesman for the Islamist group responsible for the attack on the town claimed that the killings were not premeditated, but that the four teachers had been caught in cross fire. However, several residents of Beledweyne are convinced that Mr. Ali and his colleagues were singled out because they were Christians and the Islamists feared that they were teaching their pupils about Christianity.

Israeli Court Sides with Messianic Jews


According to Baptist Press, the Supreme Court of Israel has ruled that Messianic Jews have the same rights regarding automatic citizenship as Jews who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. The case was brought by 12 applicants who had been denied citizenship primarily because they were Jewish believers in Jesus. Most of them had received letters saying they would not receive citizenship because they "commit missionary activity," according to an e-mail circulated by Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of The Jerusalem Institute of Justice. A clerk at the Ministry of Interior reportedly had told one of the applicants that because she was committing missionary activity, she was acting against the interests of the state of Israel and the Jewish people. Israel's Supreme Court ended the two-and-a-half-year legal battle April 16 by ruling that Messianics should receive equal treatment under the Israeli law of return, which says that anyone who is born Jewish can immigrate from anywhere in the world to Israel and be granted citizenship automatically. "This is yet another battle won in our war to establish equality in Israel for the Messianic Jewish community just like every other legitimate stream of faith within the Jewish world," Myers wrote.

Vietnam Church Laments State Discrimination, Interference

An unprecedented prayer appeal by the Evangelical Church of (South) Vietnam indicates that the government has stonewalled quiet, persistent attempts to obtain redress on confiscated church properties, interference in church affairs and discrimination against Christians, Compass Direct News reports. Addressed to "The Church of God Everywhere," the March 28 letter from the Executive Committee of the ECVN followed several ultimatums in which the church threatened "collective action" and still did not obtain serious dialogue with authorities. It is uncommon for the ECVN, which received full legal recognition in April 2001 and is Vietnam's largest Protestant Church, to go public on such matters. The church leaders' letter said some of 265 properties confiscated had been turned to other uses, some simply left to fall into disrepair and others demolished.

U.S. Pastor Given More Than 3 Years in Prison for Bringing Rifle Shells Into Russia

FOX News reports that a Moscow court on Monday sentenced a U.S. pastor to prison time for smuggling hunting ammunition into Russia. According to the FOXNews.com story, Phillip Miles was arrested February 3, several days after 20 rifle shells were discovered in his luggage at a Moscow airport. He has been in custody since then, and has now been sentenced to serve 3 years and 2 months. Miles, who is from South Carolina, said he didn't know it was illegal to bring ammunition into Russia, and said he brought the .300 caliber cartridges for a friend, something the judge accepted. "I'm very disappointed. It's a strange sentence for one box of hunting bullets," said Miles, who wore his clerical collar during his sentencing hearing. The judge ruled that the court could not condone ignorance of Russian customs regulations and noted Miles had visited the country more than 10 times. Miles will remain in a Moscow jail until his appeal.


Title: US Christians Urged to Cancel Church Services and Help the Poor
Post by: nChrist on April 24, 2008, 10:13:16 AM
US Christians Urged to Cancel Church Services and Help the Poor
Dan Wooding

UNITED STATES -- Christians in the US should close their churches and channel their energies into helping the poor.

According to a story posted on www.ekklesia.co.uk, this is the message from the campaign "Faith in Action", a resource developed by Christian humanitarian organization, World Vision, church communication resources provider, Outreach, Inc., and Christian communications company, Zondervan.

"The call comes along with the news that two-thirds of American surveyed in a new poll say their churches are doing enough to help the poor despite the latest United States Census Bureau statistics showing consistent year-to-year increases in the numbers of Americans living in poverty," said the Ekklesia story.

"This, combined with poverty indicators such as rising food stamp usage, points to increased demand for a complacent church to do more to help the poor, say Christian campaigners."

Conducted by Faith in Action and Harris Interactive, the national survey polled more than 2,800 adults. Sixty-seven percent of respondents "agreed" or "strongly agreed" with the statement, "My church already does enough to help the poor in my community." "Faith in Action is designed to be a step toward alleviating the complacency that is afflicting churches across the country, and an effective call to action to follow Christ's example of compassion."

Current data provided by the US Census Bureau reveals the national poverty level has increased from 11.7 percent in 2001 to 13.3 percent in 2005, or 38 million Americans.

Additionally, demand for food stamps between 2007-08, a key economic indicator provided by the United States Department of Agriculture, is up significantly in 43 states, increasing the need for significant help among more than 28 million Americans.

"These results, when combined with current census and economic data, expose a discrepancy between Christians who believe they are doing enough and the reality that Christians are just scratching the surface in our communities," said Steve Haas, vice president for church relations at World Vision.

But the study also reports that 60 percent of respondents "would support their church if it occasionally cancelled traditional services in order to donate that time to help the poor in their community."

Christians are now being invited to close their churches and mobilize in projects within their communities.

Faith in Action has produced a campaign kit which includes a step-by-step approach to transforming a congregation and reaching the community. The campaign will culminate in Faith in Action Sunday, which takes place this Sunday (April 27).

The program helps Christians invite members outside of their church to join in serving.

The survey also revealed that two-thirds of respondents said they "wished their church partnered with a non-Christian organization to help the poor in my community."

The Ekklesia story concluded, "More than 20,000 Christians at more than 200 churches have participated in a Faith in Action Sunday throughout the United States. On April 27 an additional 300 churches nationwide will close their doors and complete their Faith in Action programs with community-wide projects to help the poor and disadvantaged."
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Title: Demonstration in Brussels against Persecution of Iraqi Christians
Post by: nChrist on April 24, 2008, 10:14:54 AM
Demonstration in Brussels against Persecution of Iraqi Christians
Dan Wooding


April 24, 2008

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), nearly 4,000 people demonstrated in Brussels on Saturday (April 19, 2008) against violence perpetrated against Iraqi Christians in the strife-torn country, according to police and organizers.

Protestors, mainly Iraqi Christians, came from Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland to participate in the march through the heart of Brussels' EU quarter, organizers said.

The AFP story stated that the demonstration was aimed at drawing attention to attacks on Christians in Iraq, said Fikri Aygur, vice chairman of the European Syriac Union, organizers of the march.

"We wanted to call on the US, the EU and the UN to find a solution for the Christians," he told AFP.

The march was supposed to start in front of the US embassy in Brussels, but police did not allow it because of the large numbers, Aygur said.

"Iraq's Christians, with the Chaldeans being the largest community, were said to total as many as 800,000 before the US-led invasion in 2003 but the number is now thought to be half that figure," said AFP.

"Widespread persecution including the bombing of churches and the murder of priests has forced hundreds of thousands to flee, mostly to neighboring countries or to Kurdish northern Iraq."

The story went on to say that in February the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, was kidnapped. His corpse was found the following month.

Earlier this month, gunmen shot dead Assyrian Orthodox priest Youssef Adel near his house in the centre of the Iraqi capital as he left home.

On Friday (April 18) in Luxembourg, the European Union's Slovenian presidency rejected a German proposal to offer preferential asylum treatment to Iraqi Christians.

"German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble wanted to persuade other EU countries to offer asylum to thousands of Iraq's minority Christians because of violence against them in majority-Muslim Iraq," said the AFP story.

"His plan was initially mooted by Germany's Catholic and Protestant churches who are powerful allies of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party."

Note: Agence France-Presse (AFP) is the oldest news agency in the world, and one of the three largest with Associated Press and Reuters. It is also the largest French news agency.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 23, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 24, 2008, 10:16:43 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 23, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Chinese Man Re-Arrested for Publishing Bibles, Literature
    * Zimbabwe Church Leaders Say People are being Tortured
    * Evangelicals Give Mixed Reactions to Pope's Visit
    * Situation Deteriorating for Iraqi Christians

Chinese Man Re-Arrested for Publishing Bibles, Literature

Baptist Press reports that Shi Weihan, a Chinese bookstore owner in Beijing, has been rearrested for publishing Bibles and Christian literature during a time when a shortage of such materials has been reported in China. Shi, a 37-year-old father of two daughters, was taken into custody for a second time March 19 and has been held without family visits, China Aid Association said in a news release April 22. "His wife said she received no word on her husband's condition, and she has been prevented from bringing any food or change of clothing since his rearrest," Daniel Burton, a spokesman for China Aid, told Baptist Press. "She is very concerned about his health due to his diabetes and the deprivation and torture that's often used by Public Security Bureau officials on the arrested." Burton said Shi's second arrest was unexpected. "It comes as a big surprise to us because he was released on insufficient evidence back in January," Burton said.

Zimbabwe Church Leaders Say People are being Tortured

According to the Associated Press, on Tuesday, church leaders in Zimbabwe said people were being tortured, abducted and murdered in a campaign of retribution against opposition supporters following the March 29 election, and urged international intervention. The U.S. State Department has asked the Chinese government not to make further weapons shipments to Zimbabwe until the postelection crisis is resolved.

Evangelicals Give Mixed Reactions to Pope's Visit

The Christian Post reports that evangelical leaders expressed mixed reactions to Pope Benedict XVI's first U.S. visit, which ranged from underscoring similar values to highlighting the divide between Catholics and Protestants. The Rev. Richard Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, drew attention to similarities between the pope's view on environmentalism and embryonic stem cell research and the view of some within the evangelical community. On the other hand, prominent theologian Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, reminded people that the pope is a staunch defender of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church, and that it is not likely that evangelical Christians and the Catholic Church will bridge differences.

Situation Deteriorating for Iraqi Christians

OneNewsNow reports that Christian Solidarity International is calling on government leaders to address ever-increasing religious persecution in Iraq. During the recent Caucus on Religious Minorities in the Middle East, members examined ways the war in Iraq has affected religious minorities. CSI's Dr. Keith Roderick says since the war in Iraq began, more than 40 percent of Christians have fled the country as they have been targeted by militants: "Just last week, an Orthodox priest was murdered. At least 40 churches have been bombed, and there have been dozens of clergy and nuns who have been either kidnapped or murdered; they've been targeted. It's not a matter of being a result of random criminality, but in fact they're targeted for their faith." Roderick hopes the caucus will lead to plans to ease Christian persecution in Iraq.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 24, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 24, 2008, 10:18:37 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 24, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Eritrean Government Sending Ministers to Military Training Camps
    * Muslim Rioters Attack Christians in Kano, Nigeria
    * Survey Shows Support for Israel Strong among Christians
    * SBC Baptisms: Lowest Since '87

Eritrean Government Sending Ministers to Military Training Camps

ASSIST News Service reports that human rights group International Christian Concern (ICC) has learned that Eritrean officials are forcefully sending ministers of the Eritrean Orthodox Church to military training camps. ICC reported in a news release that as a result of this policy, Eritrean Orthodox churches throughout the country are losing their leaders. At the end of 2006, the Eritrean government informed churches of its decision to rescind a long-standing exemption of ministers from mandatory military service. The Roman Catholic Church in Eritrea was the only church to oppose this action. ICC reported that top leaders of the Eritrean Orthodox Church, who have been hand-picked by the government, embraced the new policy with open arms. Eritrean officials are now forcibly recruiting church ministers into military service on a wide scale.

Muslim Rioters Attack Christians in Kano, Nigeria

Hundreds of Muslims took to the streets of this northern Nigerian city on Sunday April 20, attacking Christians and their shops and setting vehicles on fire on claims that a Christian had blasphemed Muhammad, Compass Direct News reports. Thousands of Christians were trapped in churches until police dispersed rioters. Fearing that Muslims may attack again, many Christians have relocated to army and police barracks in the city. An as yet unidentified Christian was said to have painted an inscription that disparaged the prophet of Islam.

Survey Shows Support for Israel Strong among Christians

OneNewsNow reports that support for Israel among both liberal and conservative Christians is surprising to Middle East expert Joel Rosenberg. What surprised him most was that "liberal Protestant denominations and Catholics" all had high numbers "within the 75 to 85 percent range all supporting Israel," according to the results of a survey commissioned by Rosenberg. However, on question of the division of Jerusalem, "Evangelicals overwhelmingly believe that Jerusalem should be the united, eternal capital of the Jewish state of Israel, whereas Catholics and liberal Protestant denominations are more willing to see Jerusalem divided." 65 percent are worried Iran would try to obliterate Israel if they develop nuclear weapons.

SBC Baptisms: Lowest Since '87

According to Baptist Press, the number of people baptized in Southern Baptist churches fell for the third straight year in 2007 to the convention's lowest level since 1987. Although the SBC added 473 new churches and gave more than $1.3 billion to support mission activities around the world, Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, said there's no escaping the fact that Southern Baptists are not reaching as many people for Christ as they once did. According to LifeWay's Annual Church Profile (ACP), baptisms in 2007 dropped nearly 5.5 percent to 345,941, compared to 364,826 in 2006. "This report is truly disheartening," Rainer said. "Total membership showed a slight decline. Baptisms have now declined for three consecutive years and for seven of the last eight years, and are at their lowest level since 1987. Indeed, the total baptisms are among the lowest reported since 1970. We are a denomination that, for the most part, has lost its evangelistic passion."

__________________________________


Title: Heart-Wrenching War Dance a Must-See Documentary
Post by: nChrist on April 26, 2008, 05:31:51 AM
Heart-Wrenching War Dance a Must-See Documentary
Annabelle Robertson

DVD Release Date:  April 15, 2008
Theatrical Release Date:  November 9, 2007
Rating:  PG (for some thematic material involving description of war atrocities)
Genre:  Documentary
Run Time:  107 min.
Director:  Sean Fine & Andrea Nix Fine

For the past 20 years, the Ugandan tribe of Acholi, whose land straddles the Ugandan/Sudan border, has been victimized and terrorized.  Their oppressors call themselves "the Lord's Resistance Army," and they have slaughtered thousands of Acholi, kidnapped their children, raped their women and forced an estimated 2 million to flee their ancestral homes for government-protected camps, where they are funded through United Nations programs.

As this civil war continues to rage, primarily in the western and northern parts of Uganda, some 60,000 have made their home in the camp of Patongo.  It is here that we meet the children of the Patongo Primary School.  In between shots of majestic scenery, we meet three traumatized children, and we hear their stories.  Meanwhile, they rehearse and prepare for an important national music competition in the capital of Kampala.

Nancy is a young adolescent girl whose father, she tells us, was hacked to death by rebels.  On that terrifying night, her mother was forced to watch then bury the scattered remains of her husband's body.  Later that night, as she and her children lay sleeping, these rebels returned and forced her outside her home.  Nancy and her siblings fled into the bush.  Eventually, when the children realized their mother was not coming back, they made their way to the U.N. camp. 

Dominic was only nine when he was kidnapped, after another midnight raid.  Rebels forced him to watch his older brother being beaten and, on several occasions, he witnessed other people's murders as well.  Although Dominic was released after two weeks, he has yet to tell anyone about the horrors he experienced--and what he was made to do.  He has no idea whether his brother is alive, either.  He is but one of 30,000 children who have been abducted and forced into servitude with the rebel army.

Rose is one of an estimated 200,000 children who has been orphaned by the war.  On the night the rebels arrived at her home, she was sent into the bush with the other children.  When they finally came out of hiding, the soldiers showed the children their parents' bodies, which were covered in flies.  Then, from a large cooking pot, they pulled out their dismembered heads.  Rose said, "When I saw my mother's head, I thought I was losing my mind."  Now, she performs chore after chore for her demanding aunt, who beats her when she makes the smallest mistake.  Rose lives for the nights, she says, when she can rest--and dream of her parents.

"I'm excited to see what peace looks like," says Nancy, as she prepares for the trip to Kampala, after months of preparation.  Two days later, the children arrive at the National Theatre for the music festival, accompanied by armed escort.  Their competition is stiff:  315 schools and 5,000 children, who must all sing and dance in eight different categories over a three-day period.  They're all talented, but they're not particularly kind.  From the minute the Patonga children arrive, they hear whispers and jeers.  They are from the North.  They are poor.  They are rebels.  Finally, with great trembling that they take to the stage.

"In my heart, I am more than a child of war," says one of the young students. "I am talented.  I am a musician.  I am Acholi.  I am the future of our tribe."  What happens proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is true.  But more importantly, it shows how music--and a bit of hope--can be transformed into the balm of Gilead.

An Academy Award nomination.  A Sundance Film Festival award.  Both are testaments to the outstanding direction, cinematography, editing and composition of War Dance.  Yet even they fail to convey its power.

Be prepared to weep.  As Nancy goes with her mother to her father's grave for the first time, four years after his death.  As she collapses in grief and begs God to take life.  And as she finally reaches out to her savior for comfort.  Be prepared to weep.  As little Dominic works up the courage to visit a nearby prison.  As he trembles before a captive warlord and asks about his brother's fate.  And as he hears the answer to his question.  Be prepared to weep.  As these precious little children find something to believe in, something to nurture them, and something they can finally call their own.

"It is difficult for people to believe our story," one says, "but if we don't tell you, you won't know."  Because of their courage--and the work of these dedicated, talented filmmakers--we can know.  And what a privilege it is.

For more information about the children of Patongo and other children of northern Uganda, visit www.shineglobal.org.

DVD EXTRAS:

    * Deleted and extended scenes
    * Theatrical Trailer
    * Trailer Gallery

CAUTIONS:

    * Drugs/Alcohol:  None.
    * Language/Profanity:  None.
    * Sexual Content/Nudity:  None.
    * Violence:  Children recount horrific tales of wartime violence to family members and neighbors; one brief shot of a skull.
________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 25, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 26, 2008, 05:34:22 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 25, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Church in Zimbabwe Calls for International Day of Prayer
    * Jordanian Ex-Muslim Tried for Converting to Christianity
    * Slaughter of Three Martyrs in Malatya Mourned in Turkey
    * Anglican Leader Pleads for Prayers Ahead of Major Meeting

Church in Zimbabwe Calls for International Day of Prayer

According to the British website www.ekklesia.co.uk, the Anglican Church in Zimbabwe has asked Christians around the world to focus their prayers this Sunday on the critical situation in the country. ASSIST News Service reports that Rev. Bob Stumbles, Chancellor of the Anglican Diocese of Harare, described Zimbabwe as "a nation in dire distress and teetering on the brink of human disaster." It needs to be rescued from violence, the concealing and juggling of election results, deceit, oppression and corruption, to bring about righteousness, joy, peace, compassion, honesty, justice, democracy and freedom from fear and want, the chancellor said. "Let the cry for help touch your heart and mind. Let it move you to do what you can immediately to ensure this Day of Prayer takes place in your country and neighborhood."

Jordanian Ex-Muslim Tried for Converting to Christianity


On trial for converting from Islam to Christianity, a Jordanian man may lose legal custody of his children and have his marriage annulled if found guilty of "apostasy." Mohammad Abbad, 40, fled Jordan last month after Muslims violently attacked him and his 10-year-old son in their home and his father sued him on charges of apostasy, or leaving Islam, Compass Direct News reports. "I can't win this case as long as I insist that I converted from Islam to Christianity," Abbad wrote. "The court will annul my marriage, I will be deprived of my kids, I will be with no ID or passport, and my properties will be confiscated."

Slaughter of Three Martyrs in Malatya Mourned in Turkey

A year after the martyrdom of three Christians in Malatya, Turkey's tiny Christian community gathered this past week to honor their memories and pray for their sorrowing families, Compass Direct News reports. Turks Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Tilmann Geske were tied up, taunted for their faith in Christ, tortured and then slaughtered with knives in Malatya on April 18, 2007. Murdered in the Zirve Publishing office by five young Turkish Muslims who claimed to be defending Turkey and Islam from Christian missionaries, the three men left behind two widows, five fatherless children and a grieving fiancée. Their memorials began mid-morning April 18, in a small village cemetery in eastern Turkey and continued through Sunday April 20 with a nationwide memorial service in Istanbul, which drew more than 900 Christians.

Anglican Leader Pleads for Prayers Ahead of Major Meeting

The Christian Post reports that Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Williams made a plea to bishops to strengthen relationships at an upcoming decennial conference rather than focus on solving problems that have conflicted the Anglican/Episcopalian body toward the brink of schism. "What I would really most like to see in this years Lambeth Conference is the sense that this is essentially a spiritual encounter," said Dr. Williams Wednesday. "A time when people are encountering God as they encounter one another, a time when people will feel that their life of prayer and witness is being deepened and their resources are being stretched. Not a time when we are being besieged by problems that need to be solved and statements that need to be finalized, but a time when people feel that they are growing in their ministry." The Lambeth Conference is a once-a-decade gathering primarily for bishops from across the 77-million member Anglican body.


Title: Report Details Targeting of Christians in North Korea - Page 1 of 2
Post by: nChrist on April 28, 2008, 02:07:45 PM
Report Details Targeting of Christians in North Korea
Sarah Page

April 28, 2008


Refugees describe criminalization of faith; execution possible for owning Bible.

BANGKOK -- Refugee testimonies in a report released this month by a U.S. government body confirm severe persecution of Christians throughout North Korea.

In the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom's (USCIRF) report, refugees said that Christianity remained a key factor in the interrogation of people repatriated from China to North Korea. Border guards reserved the harshest punishment for those who admitted having any contact with Chinese or South Korean Christians.

The report, released April 15, found that consequences are harsh for those found violating state policies on religion.

"For example, recently many North Korean refugees have Bibles with them when they are repatriated," one refugee said. "In North Korea you can get away with murder if you have good connections. However, if you get caught carrying a Bible, there is no way to save your life."

Most of the refugees interviewed said they had little exposure to religious activity before seeking asylum in China, although a few told stories of grandparents hiding a Bible or other religious literature -- adding that punishment for owning a Bible could include execution and the imprisonment of "three generations" of the owner's family.

"Worshiping God or [contact with foreign religious groups or leaders] would make one a political criminal," another refugee confirmed. "The government believes that the Christian church is an anti-national organization."

Yet another stated categorically, "There is no freedom of belief or religion ... [We are taught] that if one is involved in religion, one cannot survive."

Former security agents interviewed for the report said authorities told them that U.S. or South Korean intelligence agencies distributed Bibles as part of a master plan to destabilize North Korea.

Based on interviews with North Korean refugees who have sought asylum in South Korea, the report confirms that some religious practices -- of Christianity, Buddhism and traditional folk religion -- have survived the repression of both Kim Il Sung and his son and successor, Kim Jong Il.

"The report provides evidence that the cult of personality surrounding Kim Jong Il and his family remains strong, and that Kim Jong Il's regime perceives any new religious activity as a security threat to be combated at all costs," according to a USCIRF statement. "As a result, stringent security measures have been enacted to stop the spread of religion, mostly Protestantism, through cross-border contacts with China."

Refugees interviewed for the report also confirmed that the few official churches in Pyongyang were "sham" churches, and that articles in the North Korean constitution guaranteeing religious freedom were included solely for the benefit of an international audience.

Former North Korean security agents interviewed for the report said police had stepped up efforts to halt religious activity at the border. The North Korean government even provided basic theological training for border security guards, enabling them to identify and entrap North Korean converts.

"New believers" who have come to faith through contact with Christians in China are considered a greater threat than "old believers" who came to faith as a result of family tradition.

The Church -- Alive and Well?

The report offers a rare perspective on the health of the North Korean church. Interviewees testified to secret church meetings and missionary activity; officials perceived both as threats to North Korean security.

The North Korean government has claimed there are a total of 512 house churches throughout the country, but one former police agent quoted in the report said while there were certainly "underground believers" in North Korea, it was far too dangerous for "underground churches" -- gatherings of more than a handful of believers -- to operate.

Refugees interviewed who had been to Pyongyang knew about the few official religious venues in the capital but said they were "showplaces" for foreigners, and not "real churches like those in China and South Korea." These same refugees knew of religious rights provisions in North Korean law but believed these were included for "show" and did not reflect reality.

"We ... learned in college about [legal] statutes regarding freedom of religion," one refugee stated, "but the professors told us that it was only to show outsiders and that we should not believe in any religions."

The constitution of North Korea "mentions freedom of belief or freedom of religion a lot," another stated. "It's quite different in reality. If you say the word 'religion' you could face consequences."

Another refugee said the government did not allow independent religious organizations for fear that the regime would be endangered, because "religion erodes society."
___________________________________


Title: Report Details Targeting of Christians in North Korea - Page 2 of 2
Post by: nChrist on April 28, 2008, 02:09:59 PM
Report Details Targeting of Christians in North Korea
Sarah Page

April 28, 2008

Cross-border contact with China has definitely contributed to the growth of the North Korean church in recent years. While it is impossible to measure this growth, some refugees interviewed for the report had attended prayer meetings, while former border guards had been instructed to set up false underground churches to attract Christian converts repatriated from China.

Refugees confirmed both religious activity and religious repression, consistently reporting that practitioners can be arrested, sent to political prison camps or executed.

"In 2003, an underground church called 'Yuseon' was uncovered," one said. "In around 1999 or 2000, one lady went to China to earn some money and returned to North Korea carrying two Bibles with her. She was arrested and sent to the National Security Agency. Then, her whole family disappeared."

Caught at the Border

Testimony confirmed that Christianity was a key factor in the interrogation of repatriated refugees. The admission of contact with Christians in China may result in torture, imprisonment in North Korea's labyrinth of labor camps or execution. Those who escape such punishment face ongoing surveillance and discrimination.

Protestant Christians are targeted because of their historical connection with U.S. missionaries and their present connection with a vibrant Protestant population in South Korea.

Explaining the official North Korean viewpoint, a former security guard said that the United States was perceived as "controlling one-half of the Korean peninsula" and attempting to "use religion to get the other half."

Following the years of famine, in 1999 the regime recognized that thousands of citizens had gone to China in search of food. Border security guards may now overlook cases where refugees have accepted merely food or shelter from Korean-Chinese churches. But refugees have also got wiser in recent years; many have learned not to admit to such contact with religion in China.

International Response

The report concludes that North Koreans repatriated to China -- particularly those who have any religious connection -- have a well-founded fear of persecution, qualifying them for protection under the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees.

"Either they are persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution had they remained in North Korea, or they are refugees because of the place to which they fled," the report states. "The Chinese government continues to forcibly repatriate North Koreans who have entered China without proper authorization back to North Korea, where they face brutal interrogations, detentions, forced labor, and disappearance into the infamous kwanliso or political penal labor colonies."

The report reiterates that the freedom to leave one's country of origin is a right protected by both the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. North Korea is a party to the latter, yet it is illegal to leave North Korea without authorization.

The report calls on the international community to press China to cease repatriating North Korean refugees and provide protection for them as required by the 1951 Convention and its 1967 Protocols, to which China is a party.

"Policy towards North Korean refugees repatriated to China against their will clearly requires more urgent attention," the report concludes.

Entitled "A Prison Without Bars," the USCIRF report by David Hawk updates a previous study, "Thank You Father Kim Il Sung," released in 2005.

In January, Christian support organization Open Doors released its annual World Watch List of the worst religious persecutors, with North Korea topping the list for the sixth consecutive year.

"There is no other country in the world where Christians are being persecuted in such a horrible and relentless way," according to the organization.

SIDEBAR: The 'Cult' of Kim Il Sung

Refugees interviewed in the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom report stressed that Juche, or Kim-Il-Sung-ism, remained the only acceptable ideology in North Korea following Kim Jong Il's succession, although fortune-telling or shamanism had made a comeback in recent years and was tolerated -- even patronized -- by some officials.

Kim Il Sung constructed his "Revolutionary Thought" system in the late 1950s and early 1960s to fill a void created by the repression of other religions. By the mid-1980s, he had extended Juche into an elaborate belief system that deified Kim Il Sung and his family.

Under Kim Jong Il, according to the report, "Absolute reverence for the Kim family continues to be indoctrinated ... through schools, media and the workplace ... disinterest, 'complaints' or 'wrong thoughts' can, in some cases, lead to the imprisonment of up to three generations of one's family."

Propaganda against other religious beliefs is widespread; in fact all citizens are required to attend at least one weekly indoctrination class at their local "Revolutionary Idea Institute" or "Research Room." Portraits of the Kim family must be visible in every home, office, school and public venue, and special committees police this requirement diligently.

All is not well in Kim Il Sung's self-proclaimed paradise, however. Several refugees, including former soldiers and intelligence officers, claimed that support for the ideology is only surface-deep and varies geographically. "There is a remarkable contrast ... between the border and inland areas," one refugee said. "The border area is ruled by capitalism and the inland area is ruled by socialism. Inland people still believe Kim Jong Il is the best."

Interviewees spoke of discontent with the ideology ranging from private to public complaints, lax enforcement and disregard for some requirements.

One stated that, "Living conditions are harsh and studying Juche doesn't give you rice ... Workers like us go to study [propaganda sessions] because we are told to ... In factories, we were told to read several books and quote them during 'Self-Criticism Meetings.' If not insane, who would read these books?"

Another claimed eight out of 10 people in most study sessions had silent complaints, but if anyone complained openly they would "disappear" the following day; he added, "Kim Il Sung and Kim Jong Il are god ... You have to stand up and say everything's good even though you have nothing to eat."
__________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 28, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 28, 2008, 02:12:09 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 28, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Evangelicals 'Hijacked' Day of Prayer, Critics Accuse
    * Biblical Scholars Challenge Pelosi's Earth Day 'Scripture' Quote
    * Pastors Accuse Planned Parenthood for 'Genocide' on Blacks
    * Anglican Leader Pleads for Prayers Ahead of Major Meeting

Evangelicals 'Hijacked' Day of Prayer, Critics Accuse

The Christian Post reports that non-Christian critics are accusing evangelicals of taking over the upcoming National Day of Prayer, which they complain excludes other religions. "The National Day of Prayer has been hijacked!" declares Jews on First on its Web site. "What began as President Truman's declaration of a National Prayer Day for all Americans is now excluding and dividing us on religious lines." The 57th annual National Day of Prayer is on May 1 this year. The theme is: "Prayer! America's Strength and Shield," based on Psalm 28:7 Jews on First specifically protests against the application to be a NDoP coordinator: "The volunteers who organize the events... are required to pledge that they will only invite Christian clergy to officiate. The volunteers themselves have to ... make a statement of faith that is very narrowly drawn so that only a conservative evangelical Christian would be comfortable doing it," said Jane Hunter, co-director of Jews on First.

Biblical Scholars Challenge Pelosi's Earth Day 'Scripture' Quote

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is fond of quoting a particular passage of Scripture; however, the quote, which Pelosi used most recently on Earth Day, does not appear in the Bible and is "fictional," according to biblical scholars, CNSNews.com reports. In her April 22 Earth Day news release, Pelosi said, "The Bible tells us in the Old Testament, 'To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us.'" CNS queried the speaker's office for two days to determine where the alleged Bible quote is found. As of this report, no one had responded. Several biblical scholars doubt the existence of the passage. John J. Collins, the Holmes professor of Old Testament criticism and interpretation at Yale Divinity School, said he is totally unfamiliar with Pelosi's quotation. "(It's) not one that I recognize," Collins told Cybercast News Service. "I assume that she means this is a paraphrase. But it wouldn't be a close paraphrase to anything I know of." Pelosi has mentioned the quote in public several times previously.

Pastors Accuse Planned Parenthood for 'Genocide' on Blacks

According to FOX News, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America has perpetuated a "genocide on the black community," says a group of African-American pastors who claimed Thursday the birth control and abortion provider has had a racist agenda since its beginnings in 1921. During a vigil, the pastors and activists said they were incensed by the results of recent "undercover" inquiries into several Planned Parenthood clinics across the country. "Every day... over 1,500 black babies are murdered inside the black woman's womb," said Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson, of Brotherhood Organization of a New Destiny (BOND). "This is a race issue." The pastors urged Congress to initiate an audit of the organization and have written letters demanding that money for Planned Parenthood be eliminated from federal Title X funding, According to a report released by the group of Students for Life America on Tuesday, black women are 4.8 times more likely to have an abortion than white women, while the black population in the U.S. is in decline.

Russia: Visa Changes Leave Religious Communities In Limbo

Recent changes to the visa regime governing foreign religious workers in Russia are hampering the operations of some religious communities, Forum 18 News Service has found. Under an October 2007 government decree, a foreign citizen holding either a business or humanitarian visa - which includes religious work - may now spend only half the period it covers within Russia. "Our priests are really, really suffering from this," one Russian Catholic told Forum 18. Limited to 180 days a year with his parish in Moscow Region, one priest is making the grueling 24-hour commute from his native Poland to lead weekend Masses. Others are spending extended periods outside Russia as their 180 days are already up. With fewer priests to go round, there are no weekday services in some towns, said the Catholic. The visa changes themselves are not to blame, believes Fr. Igor Kovalevsky, secretary of the Catholic Bishops' Conference in Russia. "The problem is the bureaucracy involved in getting temporary residency or a work permit instead," he told Forum 18 on 21 April. The Catholic Church in Russia is currently trying to obtain temporary residency for the 90 per cent of its clergy - over 200 priests - who are foreign citizens, Fr. Igor told Forum 18.


Title: New Barna Research Describes Use of Technology in Churches
Post by: nChrist on April 30, 2008, 12:42:14 PM
New Barna Research Describes Use of Technology in Churches
Dan Wooding


April 30, 2008

VENTURA, CA -- Protestant churches across the nation are using various forms of emerging technology to influence people's lives and enliven their church experience. But the pace of technology adoption seems to have slowed in the past two years as some churches focus upon making the most of what they already have, and other churches attempt to get by without incorporating such tools into their ministry mix.

This has been revealed in new study from The Barna Group which explored the presence of eight technologies and applications in Protestant churches.

"Those tools included large screens used for showing video imagery; showing movie clips and other video segments during church events; sending email blasts to all or portions of the congregation; operating a church website; offering a blog site or pages for interaction with church leaders; maintaining a page on behalf of the church on one or more social networking sites; providing podcasts for people to listen to; and receiving programming and training via a satellite dish," said a Barna Group news release.

Large Screens and Movie Clips

The release continued, "Two-thirds of Protestant churches (65%) now have a large screen projection system in their church that they use for services and other events. However, that number is barely higher than the 62% identified in Barna's 2005 study. At that time, growth was still evident, given that only 39% of churches had such a system in 2000. Since 2000, there has been a 67% increase in the number of churches using big-screen systems, but only a 5% increase since 2005.

"The presence of a large-screen system is related to the church's size and theology. The smaller a church is, the less likely it is to use such tools. Among churches that average less than 100 adults each week, only half (53%) have such systems. The proportion balloons to 76% among churches that attract an average of 100 to 250 adults, and nearly nine out of ten churches (88%) that draw more than 250 adults each week.

"Similarly, only 43% of churches described by their pastor as possessing "liberal theology" have big screen capabilities, compared to 68% among the churches that say they are theologically conservative."

The Barna research revealed that most of the churches that have a big screen mounted in the church use that monitor to show movie clips or other video segments. Overall, 57% of churches show movie clips or other video segments during their services and events. That represents 88% of the churches that have a big screen in place -- up from 76% of the churches who had big screens in 2000, but a slight decrease from the 99% of churches with large screens who showed such materials in 2005.

"The same pattern emerged regarding the use of movie clips and other video content, in which theologically liberal churches and small congregations were the least likely to use the screens to display such material," said the Barna news release.

Sending E-Mail Blasts


It goes on to say that sending email blasts to large groups of people or to the entire church body is common to a majority of Protestant churches (56%). Surprisingly, however, the prevalence of this practice has not budged since 2005. Small congregations are less likely to send out such blasts (47%) than are churches with 100 or more adults attending during a typical week (66%).

Internet Presence

Barna says that the ways in which churches are reaching out to people over the Internet are expanding. Back in 2000, just one-third of Protestant churches (34%) had a church website. That exploded to 57% in 2005, and has inched upward since then to 62%. About half of the small churches (48% of those drawing less than 100 adults) have a church website, compared to three-quarter of the mid-sized churches (75% of the congregations attracting 100 to 250 adults per week) and nine out of ten larger churches (91% of the churches with more than 250 adults attending).

The research reveals that one out of every four Protestant churches (26%) now has some presence on one or more social networking sites (such as MySpace). Again, church size was a factor in this with larger churches being more than twice as likely to have such a presence (20% vs. 47%). Charismatic churches were notably more likely (38%) than either mainline or evangelical congregations to use such pages in their ministry efforts.

Podcasting has been adopted by one out of every six churches (16%). Again, larger churches stood out in their embrace of this communications tool, with half of the churches attracting more than 250 adults (47%) utilizing podcast technology.

Blogging is also invading the ministry world. One-eighth of Protestant churches (13%) now have blog sites or pages through which people can interact with the thoughts posted by church leaders.

Satellite Dishes

One technology that has not shown any discernible expansion in the past several years is that of satellite broadcasting. In 2000, some 7% of Protestant churches had a satellite dish for receiving programming and training. That number has remained virtually unchanged since then, registering 8% in 2005 and the same 8% in 2007.

Technology Is Here to Stay

The incorporation of digital technologies into church-based ministry is an important frontier for churches to master, according to George Barna, who directed these studies for The Barna Group over the course of the decade.
"The Internet has become one of the pivotal communications and community-building tools of our lifetime. Churches are well-advised to have an intelligent and foresighted Internet strategy in order to facilitate meaningful ministry," Barna commented.

He also noted that small churches are less technology-friendly. "Many small churches seem to believe that new tools for ministry are outside of their budget range or may not be significant for a church of their size. It may be, though, that such thinking contributes to the continued small size of some of those churches."

Barna also addressed the slowing growth of certain tools in the church market. "The fact that market penetration of digital technologies seems to top out around two-thirds of the market could easily change if the digital-resistant churches conceived ways of facilitating their vision through the deployment of such tools. That is what made these tools so appealing to larger churches: being able to apply the tools to furthering their ministry goals."

About the Research

This report is based upon telephone interviews conducted by The Barna Group with a random sample of 605 Senior Pastors of Protestant churches. For comparison, similarly drawn samples of Senior Pastors were interviewed previously, responding to the same survey questions. In the prior studies, 845 Senior Pastors were interviewed in 2005, and 610 Senior Pastors were interviewed in 2000. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of 605 pastors spoken to in the most recent survey is ±4.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Denominational stratification was used to ensure a representative presence of the variety of denominations in the U.S.

The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) conducts primary research, produces resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984.
____________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 30, 2008
Post by: nChrist on April 30, 2008, 12:45:05 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 30, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * World Food Crisis Deepening
    * Former North Korean Agents Tell of Infiltrating Christians
    * Christians in India Concerned about New Anti-Conversion Law
    * Pelosi Says She Heard Disputed Bible Verse from Priest

World Food Crisis Deepening

ASSIST News Service reports that international relief agency World Vision, one of the world's largest humanitarian organizations, is calling on donor governments to increase resources in order to fund the World Food Program's $755 million shortfall. It also urges leaders of the world's leading industrialized nations to make the issue a priority at the upcoming G8 conference. Amid surging food prices, child malnutrition, violent unrest and the prospect of prolonged food shortages, World Vision has announced a potential 1.5 million drop in the number of people receiving its food assistance. The aid organization cites the soaring cost of food and unmet donor-nation aid commitments for a potential 23 percent decrease in the number of people it is able to supply with food aid this year. "Despite our best efforts, more than a million of our beneficiaries are no longer receiving food aid," said Dean Hirsch, president of World Vision International. "At least a third of these are children who urgently need enough healthy food to thrive."

Former North Korean Agents Tell of Infiltrating Christians

Compass Direct News reports that former police and security officers in North Korea told a U.S. government body that their superiors had instructed them to play the role of Christians and infiltrate "underground" prayer meetings in order to incriminate, arrest, imprison and sometimes execute believers in North Korea. Interviewed for a report issued on April 15 by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, the six officers were tasked -- before they fled North Korea -- with finding and eliminating small groups of Christians. "There are no preliminary hearings when religious people get caught," one agent said. "[We] regard them as anti-revolutionary elements. When such an offender is caught in North Korea, the NSA officers surround the person and kick and beat the person severely before interrogating." Another agent said, "The most important question asked to the repatriated is whether they have met South Korean missionaries or evangelists or encountered or experienced religion."

Christians in India Concerned about New Anti-Conversion Law

According to Baptist Press, the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party in India's Gujarat state has implemented an "anti-conversion" law passed in 2003, increasing fears among Christians that it will open the door to false accusations by Hindu extremists. India's Freedom of Religion Acts, referred to as anti-conversion laws, now have been implemented in five of India's 28 states. The laws seek to curb religious conversions made by "force," "fraud" or "allurement." But Christians and human rights groups say that in reality the laws obstruct conversion generally, as Hindu nationalists invoke them to harass Christian workers with spurious arrests and incarcerations. The rules under the Gujarat law make it obligatory for clergy to obtain prior permission of the district magistrate in order to avoid police action when assisting in an individual's conversion from one religion to another.

Pelosi Says She Heard Disputed Bible Verse from Priest

CNSNews.com reports that the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told Fox News last week that Pelosi heard the disputed Bible "passage" she used in her April 22 Earth Day message from a priest in San Francisco. Brit Hume reported last Thursday on "Special Report with Brit Hume" that Pelosi's office had told Fox News that the Speaker had "heard a priest quote the verse many years ago during a mass in San Francisco." On Thursday, Friday, and again on Monday, however, the Speaker's office did not respond to requests for comment made by Cybercast News Service , which first reported on Wednesday, April 23 that biblical scholars have cast doubt on the authenticity of the passage. In her news release, Pelosi said the quote - 'To minister to the needs of God's creation is an act of worship. To ignore those needs is to dishonor the God who made us' - came from the Old Testament. Biblical scholars told Cybercast News Service that the quote does not appear anywhere in the Old or New Testament. Moreover, they say nothing similar can be found in Scripture.

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Title: Kazakhstan Considers Restrictive New Religion Law
Post by: nChrist on May 01, 2008, 10:22:10 AM
Kazakhstan Considers Restrictive New Religion Law
Jeremy Reynalds


May 1, 2008

LOVES PARK, ILLINOIS -- The lower chamber of Kazakhstan's parliament has passed new legislation that would impose tough new restrictions on foreign missionary activity and evangelical churches.

Kazakhstan is located in Central Asia, northwest of China; a small portion west of the Ural River in eastern-most Europe.

According to a news release from the Slavic Gospel Association (SGA), Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev would have to approve the legislation before it becomes law.

The news release stated that according to Rev. Franz Tissen, president of the Kazakh Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, the bill contains a number of troubling provisions.

It would establish quotas of missionaries allowed in Kazakhstan. It would also forbid unregistered missionary activity by foreign workers who are not representatives of religious organizations.

Tissen said the bill would also prohibit distribution of religious material and informational material with religious content to citizens in public places and in private homes, unless the person receiving the literature initiates the contact and agrees to receive the literature.

Tissen told SGA the bill would also stop the acceptance of financial and other donations by religious organizations from anonymous or foreign citizens and organizations. In addition, he said, it would forbid religious activities, meetings or gatherings with children under the age of 18 without written agreement from both parents or legal guardians.

According to the news release, the proposed bill would also target the activities and registration of religious groups that have only a small number of members. It would sharply restrict the right to publish religious literature, and would also make it more difficult for a small group to obtain their own place for worship, or to preach outside of the group itself.

Tissen said in a news release, "This is an absolute intrusion into the inner lives of believers, and limits us by laws and fines as we work to fulfill the Great Commission of our Lord Jesus Christ. I appeal to all believers to join us in fasting and praying for the work of God in Kazakhstan."

SGA president Dr. Robert Provost also said in the news release, "Please make this a matter of urgent, ongoing prayer before the Lord. This is yet another indication that the doors for ministry are, indeed, continuing to close in the former Soviet Union. But our God is sovereign, and He alone can direct the hearts of the rulers of this world."

SGA is an interdenominational mission which has been working in the former Soviet Union since 1934. SGA has served churches in Russia through pastor and layleader training, sponsorship of national church planters and the provision of Christian literature.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 1, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 01, 2008, 10:24:25 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 1, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Islamic Extremists Kill another Christian in Somalia
    * Protestants in Russia Facing Increased Pressure
    * India: Serious Charges Omitted in Attack on Pastor
    * World's Largest Prayer Meeting Gathers Momentum

Islamic Extremists Kill another Christian in Somalia


ASSIST News Service reports that Islamic extremists in Somalia have shot and killed a Muslim convert to Christianity. According to a news release from the D.C.-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC), the slaying occurred on April 22 in Baidawa. The 29-year-old victim's name was David Abdulwahab Mohamed Ali. ICC filled in some of the horrifying details. On April 22, one of Ali's cousins took two other members of the Islamic extremist group Al-Shabab to Ali and asked him if he was a Muslim or an infidel. He answered, "Neither." They asked, "Then what are you?" He answered, "Waxaan ahay Masiixi," which means, "I am a follower of the Messiah." ICC said that at this point Ali's cousin became both furious and humiliated. In Somalia's strict Muslim society, Ali's conversion to Christianity brought enormous shame on his family. His cousin's first response was to pull out a gun and shoot Ali. The other two extremists did the same, and the three continued shooting Ali until their Muslim "honor" had been avenged.

Protestants in Russia Facing Increased Pressure

Protestants in Russia are facing increased pressure from the Orthodox Church and the state, ASSIST News Service reports. Protestants are frequently labeled and treated as "totalitarian sects." Recent press reports featured incidents in the Russian city of Stary Oskol. Members of the secret service FSB "visited" a small Methodist congregation recently. The church, with approximately 40 members, meets in a private apartment. According to Pastor Vladimir Pachomov an officer predicted that Protestantism in Russia would probably soon come to an end. After the uninvited visit by the FSB the local authorities denied the group state recognition as a religious association. The authorities claimed that the religious activities were only a "facade" for unspecified business transactions. Unofficially, other reasons were mentioned to Pachomov. It was alleged that the Methodist group was under American influence and perceived to be a "foreign element", from which nothing good could be expected. Other reports from Stary Oskol mention that police broke up an Adventist gathering, and Baptists were denied the use of a rented theater.

India: Serious Charges Omitted in Attack on Pastor

Compass Direct News reports that the Hindu nationalist government in Rajasthan state has closed a police investigation into a televised attack on pastor Walter Masih a year ago today after withdrawing the more serious charges against the accused. The state government ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party has refused to sanction prosecution under the more serious charges of the 14 Hindu extremists accused of attacking Pastor Masih with sticks and rods, leaving him bleeding profusely in the state capital, Jaipur. Police had arrested 14 of the 20 alleged attackers in the April 29, 2007 assault and filed a case against them -- but without including any charges related to religion-related offenses, which provide for stricter penal action. Now the government has refused to give sanction for prosecution of more serious charges, weakening the case.

World's Largest Prayer Meeting Gathers Momentum

This Pentecost Sunday, May 11, millions of Christians, from 210 nations around the world will be gathering to worship and pray for God's kingdom to come on earth as part of the fourth Global Day of Prayer. ASSIST News Service reports that, according to www.christiantoday.com, there will be over 38 events across the UK in cathedrals, civic centers, stadiums, high places, parks, churches and houses of prayer. "The Global Day of Prayer started in South Africa in 2005 and is based on Acts 1 and 2 - ten days of constant prayer (May 1-10); 1 day for the whole church to gather (May 11) and 90 days of blessing (May 12--August 10). The aim is to see local churches united in prayer to see communities transformed by the Holy Spirit," said the Christian Today story.


Title: Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Improving, Says Muslim Leader
Post by: nChrist on May 03, 2008, 05:15:55 AM
Catholic-Muslim Dialogue Improving, Says Muslim Leader
Lois Owen

(CNSNews.com) - During his recent visit to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI attended an Interfaith Gathering at the John Paul II Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. to speak with members of several faiths, including American Muslim leaders. His goal was to stress the importance of inter-faith communication and, especially, to further the Catholic Church's policy of maintaining good relations with members of Islam.

"The higher goal of inter-religious dialogue requires a clear exposition of our respective religious tenets," the pope told the gathering. "The Holy See, for its part, seeks to carry forward this important work through the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies, and various Pontifical Universities."

The conflict between Catholics and Muslims dates back hundreds of years to the Dark Ages and the Crusades. Interfaith communication was not initiated until 1965 when Pope Paul VI encouraged dialogue between Muslims and Catholics with a statement in his papal document Nostrae Aetate.

"Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Moslems, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding," Paul VI wrote.

Pope John Paul II - born in 1920, served as pope 1978-2005 -- in particular strove to strengthen the Muslim-Catholic dialogue. In 1979, one year after he became pope, he addressed Catholics in Turkey saying, "I wonder if it is not urgent, precisely today when Christians and Muslims have entered a new period of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite us."

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, national director of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), who led the Muslim delegation attending the event, said the interfaith meeting was "very successful," because it expressed the commitment of both Islamic and Catholic leaders to improve dialogue .

The pope was presented with symbolic gifts from representatives of each of the major religions in attendance at the gathering: Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism and Judaism. A representative of American Muslims gave him "a small, finely crafted edition of the Qur'an, in green leather and gold leaf edging."

"These are symbolic gestures where we express our appreciation and our reverence to a leader who represents 1.3 billion Catholics," said Syeed, "but the real progress is made when we are in touch with the Catholic Church here and all over the world ... it has been moving forward for all these years. There have been problems, but since we are determined to carry on, we hope those problems will not distract us."

Pope Benedict closed his address saying, "May the followers of all religions stand together in defending and promoting life and religious freedom everywhere. By giving ourselves generously to this sacred task - through dialogue and countless small acts of love, understanding and compassion - we can be instruments of peace for the whole human family."

The Vatican had agreed in March, after meeting for two days with Muslim scholars from around the world, to establish the "Muslim-Catholic Forum," and to organize the Forum's first seminar in Rome. The theme of the seminar is "Love of God, Love of Neighbor" and will be held Nov. 4-6, 2008, according to a Vatican press release.

The meeting and the subsequent formation of the Muslim-Catholic Forum were arranged in response to an open letter written to Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 13, 2006 and signed by 138 Muslim scholars from around the world seeking to engage in deeper dialogue with the Catholic Church.

Dr. Syeed said the theme of the upcoming seminar would be a constructive one for both religions. "Love of God, Love of Neighbor' is a main message of Christ, and Christians love it," said Syeed. "Christians believe this is their mission. This is true within Islam as well. ... It's our duty to respect human beings as human beings."

"God has created diversity and we have to respect that diversity," Syeed told Cybercast News Service . "That does not mean that we have to dilute our religions."

Bishop Richard Sklba, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, also had positive expectations for the seminar. He said the theme of the seminar is one that "goes to the core of our Jewish-Catholic-Christian tradition," and that there are "similar dimensions to the ethics that are described and commanded in the Qu'ran, so it's a common element."

While most American-Muslim groups, including the Islamic Center of America, the Fiqh Council of North America, and the Council of American-Islamic Relations welcomed the pope, and were eager to attend the Interfaith Gathering, at least one-the Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), chose not to attend.

Edina Lekovic, communications director for MPAC, told Cybercast News Service that the organization chose to decline the invitation "as a matter of principle, not protest."

"Based on a long track record of real substantive interfaith dialogue, we were initially looking forward to this meeting with the pope," said Lekovic, "but when we found out that the meeting itself was going to be more ceremonial than substantive, we had second thoughts."

Lekovic said that many Muslims are concerned about some of the pope's public actions, such as his recent Easter baptism of controversial Italian journalist Magdi Allam who was formerly Muslim, but now denounces Islam as an inherently violent religion.

Still, Lekovic agreed that the "Love of God, Love of Neighbor" seminar is a step in the right direction.

"That's precisely the kind of forum that is needed to regain some kind of trust between the pope and Muslim leaders," she said.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 2, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 03, 2008, 05:18:27 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 2, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Christians Challenged to Donate One Million Hours of Kindness to U.K.
    * Methodists Reject Changes to Gay Stance
    * Rabbis Want Boycott of Bible Quiz Due to Messianic Jew Participant
    * Wheaton College Fires Professor over Divorce

Christians Challenged to Donate One Million Hours of Kindness to U.K.

ASSIST News Service reports that Christians in Great Britain are being challenged to donate one million hours of kindness in practical ways to their neighbors. Hope08, the nationwide year of grassroots mission, has set the challenge to Christians to give a million hours of kindness to the UK this May bank holiday (Monday, May 26), according to Anne Thomas, writing for www.Christiantoday.com. Thomas says that Christians and churches of all denominations and traditions will come together throughout the day to undertake a practical action that meets a particular need within the local community. Mike Pilavachi, the Soul Survivor chief who founded Hope08 together with The Message Trust's Andy Hawthorne and head of Youth for Christ Roy Crowne, encouraged Christians to demonstrate God's love through their actions. "The million hours of kindness is a million hours of worship -- it's as much an expression of love for God as it is an expression of his love for others," he said.

Methodists Reject Changes to Gay Stance

The Christian Post reports that United Methodists, following a lengthy debate, voted Wednesday to reject changes to their constitution that would have liberalized the church's stance on homosexuality. Delegates to the 2008 General Conference voted against a proposed "majority report" which would have acknowledged that members of the United Methodist Church "deeply disagree with one another" on the issue of homosexuality. Frederick Brewington, a layman in the New York Annual Conference, said such an acknowledgment would have been a "mature way forward" and "an honest, yet humble approach to how we are to view one another." The petition for changes would have also deleted the current statement in UMC's Book of Discipline that describes homosexual practice as "incompatible with Christian teaching" and bans noncelibate gay pastors. The Rev. Eddie Fox argued that any United Methodist statement on human sexuality needs to be "clear, concise and faithful to biblical teaching," and deleting the incompatibility statement would be confusing.

Rabbis Want Boycott of Bible Quiz Due to Messianic Jew Participant

CNSNews.com reports that a group of rabbis is calling for a boycott of Israel's International Bible Quiz because one of the finalists is a Messianic Jew, the Jerusalem Post reported. The annual Bible Quiz, held each year on Independence Day, tests the knowledge of Jewish youth from around the world. Rabbi Shlomo Aviner, one of the rabbis calling for the boycott, accused Messianic Jews of proselytizing in "very sophisticated ways." Aviner was quoted as saying that it is forbidden to give "legitimacy" to Messianic Jews by allowing their participation in the quiz. Bat-El Levi, an 11th grader from the Jerusalem area, is one of four finalists from Israel and is a Messianic Jew. Calev Myers, founder and chief counsel of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice, a group that represents Messianic Jews, wondered why the rabbis should have a problem with a young woman who can quote the Bible.

Wheaton College Fires Professor over Divorce

According to an ABC News report, Wheaton College students and professors all sign a "covenant" pledging to lead their lives in accordance with biblical teaching. Now, Kent Gramm, a popular English professor for 20 years, will be leaving the Illinois school because he got a divorce. News of his impending departure has led to a campuswide debate over whether divorce should be grounds for dismissal. "This has just been really tough on my family and I'm no longer going to speak about it," Gramm said. The school has employed divorced professors, but they've had to explain the reason for their divorce to determine if it's allowable under New Testament tenets; Gramm declined to do so. "I think it's wrong to have to discuss your personal life with your employer," he told the Chicago Tribune, "and I also don't want to be in a position of accusing my spouse, so I declined to appeal or discuss the matter in any way with my employer."

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Title: UK Muslims Launch Body to Promote Secular Democracy
Post by: nChrist on May 05, 2008, 11:01:27 AM
UK Muslims Launch Body to Promote Secular Democracy
Kevin McCandless

London (CNSNews.com) - It's time for the "silent majority" of British Muslims to be heard over the noise made by religious extremists, speakers launching a new community organization in Britain said on Thursday.

A small group of radicals had hijacked the image of British Muslims, activists said at the launch of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD).

Nasreen Rehman, a playwright and writer who is one of the group's founders, said that she was tired of non-Muslims wondering why she wasn't veiled, or why she was a working woman who hadn't gone through an arranged marriage and who was, in fact, divorced.

Growing up in Pakistan in the 1950s, she said, she had experienced a degree of freedom that might be unthinkable today, with a father who treated her as an equal.

Rehman said Pakistan had been radicalized, in part, because of the campaign by the U.S.-supported mujahedeen fighters against the Soviet occupation of neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s.

In Britain, she argued, people have a distorted picture of British Muslims partly because militants and their activities make "good copy" for the media. Muslims account for roughly 1.6 million of the 58 million total population.

Rehman said a turning point had come for her in 2005, when a British teenager sued her local school authority for the right to wear a jilbab, a dress that exposes only the face and hands and which the teen claimed her religion compelled her to wear.

Rehman said the outfit had no basis in Islamic tradition."All Muslims knew there was no such thing as Islamic dress," she said. "I had sleepless night thinking about my daughters," and the effect such radicalization may have of their future.

The BMSD plans in the months ahead to promote the view that most British Muslims embrace democracy, while addressing the influence of religious radicalism.

Inayat Bunglawala, a political commentator who is also assistant secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, said Thursday that only a "tiny fringe of activists" in the Muslim community wanted to see secular democracy.

The BMSD launch came just days after another organization was formed with similar goals.

Launched at a London press conference, the Quilliam Foundation said its aim was to combat the influence of extreme Islamist ideology.

Leaders of the new think tank are mostly former members of the British chapter of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization that promotes the creation of a caliphate, uniting Muslims around the world under Islamic law. They say their experience in the group equips them to argue effectively against extremist ideology.

Hizb ut-Tahrir declined to comment this week on the new organization's launch.

Hizb ut-Tahrir is currently publicizing a mobilization campaign in Britain called "Stand For Islam," aimed at challenging what spokesman Taji Mustafa called "the vicious media and political onslaught against Islam and Muslims."

Mustafa said in a statement it was time to question the capitalist system and liberal western values associated with it.

"Our campaign will show the sublime values of Islam and the ability of the Islamic system to solve modern problems," he said. "The Muslim world is crying out for Islam."
__________________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 5, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 05, 2008, 11:03:45 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 5, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Obama-Wright Rift Reveals Divided Loyalties in Black Church
    * 'Blasphemy' Issue Surfaces in Legal Tensions in Nigeria
    * 'Expelled' Producer Happy with Box Office
    * Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China

Obama-Wright Rift Reveals Divided Loyalties in Black Church

An Associated Press story states that Sen. Barack Obama's break with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright is putting black pastors and their congregations in a difficult position, with their loyalties divided. Ministers say the situation is complicated because there's a sense that both men have been treated unfairly, despite both having made mistakes. Wright lost some of the initial support he'd had from ministers after claiming the U.S. government was capable of planting AIDS in the black community, praising Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, and suggesting Obama was acting like a politician, putting his pastor at arm's length while privately agreeing with him. Obama then denounced Wright's comments as "divisive and destructive," just six weeks after portraying Wright as a family member he couldn't disown. Bishop Charles H. Ellis III, senior pastor of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit, said, "What I am disappointed in is Rev. Wright's continuing to be in the public eye. If he has a point to get across, make your point." Meanwhile, The Rev. William Revely questioned how Obama could honestly claim not to have heard some of Wright's contentious remarks from the pulpit: "Anybody who has heard Jeremiah preach has heard that. Jeremiah, he's a pastor, and as a pastor you have to see things as they are. Politicians see things as they want them to be."

'Blasphemy' Issue Surfaces in Legal Tensions in Nigeria

Last Friday April 25, the Supreme Court of Nigeria confirmed the death sentence for Abdullahi Ada and others involved in the murder of Abdullahi Umaru, condemned for "blasphemy" of Muhammad in Kebbi state in 1999, Compass Direct News reports. Justice George Oguntade ordered that Ada be hanged until confirmed dead. With sharia in force in Kebbi and 11 other states in northern Nigeria -- though supposed to be applied only to Muslims -- the high court judgment has further prompted Muslim calls for legislation against "blasphemy." The National Assembly is amending the 1999 constitution, and Muslim leaders in northern Nigeria's Kano state have called for a national law against "blasphemy," leaving Christian leaders fearful that Islamic law could be used to arbitrarily put Christians to death.

'Expelled' Producer Happy with Box Office

Entering its third weekend, Ben Stein's "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" had entered the Top 15 on the all-time list for documentary films --- a distinction that some say is a solid box office achievement, but others say is a small feat, Baptist Press reports. Associate producer Mark Mathis is among those who are pleased. The film had grossed nearly $5.8 million through April 30, which places it at No. 14 on the all-time list. Whether Expelled can finish in the Top 10 all-time will be determined in the next couple weekends. "It's done exceptionally well when you look at it as a documentary film," Mathis said. "... We're pretty pleased. Different people have different expectations. Ask anybody who puts out a project like this, 'Do you think you could have done better?' most people are going to say, 'Yeah, I think we could have done better.' You just have these high hopes for it." Just like any other documentary, the challenge all along has been to get people to the theater to learn about a subject --- the cultural battle between evolution and Intelligent Design --- that some would call boring."

Charges Shift against Christian Bookstore Owner in China

An advocacy organization reported this week that Chinese authorities now accuse a Beijing businessman of being a "dangerous religious element" -- which a long-time friend dismissed as contrary to Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan's gentle, patriotic nature, Compass Direct News reports. Authorities have been slow to reveal charges against Shi, who after his original arrest for "illegal business practices" on November 28, 2007 was released on January 4 due to "insufficient evidence." Re-arrested on March 19 for printing Bibles and Christian literature, Shi until last week had been denied a visit by his attorney. Following that visit, China Aid Association reported on April 28 that authorities were holding Shi as a "dangerous religious element." Long-time friend Ray Sharpe said that Shi's many foreign relationships as a travel agent may have raised undue suspicions by Chinese authorities, doubly ironic as the bookstore owner has been promoting the Olympic Games later this year and is anything but critical of Chinese policy.


Title: Bush Proposes International Day of Prayer
Post by: nChrist on May 06, 2008, 09:24:38 AM
Bush Proposes International Day of Prayer
Pete Winn

(CNSNews.com) - Saying that he hoped there would one day be an international day of prayer, President Bush marked the 20th annual National Day of Prayer at ceremonies held Thursday at the White House.

"As we pray for God's continued blessings on our country, I think it makes sense to hope that one day there may be an International Day of Prayer," Bush said during his eighth and final appearance at the prayer ceremony.

"It will be a chance for people of faith around the world to stop at the same time to pause to praise an Almighty," he added.

The president thanked the American people for praying for him over the last eight years. Without those prayers, Bush candidly admitted, he would not have made it through the "turbulent years" of his presidency.

"I may have been a little hardheaded at times, but I'm absolutely convinced it was the prayers of the people who helped me (understand) in turbulence you can find calm and strength," Bush said to the assembled audience of clergy and lay leaders from many faiths.

The president even poked a little fun at himself, taking note that the election is just months away, and he will soon be without a job.

"It's interesting, when you think about our faith you can find it in the Pledge of Allegiance, you can find an expression of American faith in the Declaration of Independence, and you can find it in the coins in our pockets. I used to carry coins -- in about 10 months I'll be carrying them again," Bush said.

On Capitol Hill, meanwhile, there were fewer jokes as hundreds gathered at the Cannon House Office Building to pray for what conservative Christian leader James Dobson called the nation's "moment of desperation."

"We're facing political decisions that none of us have the wisdom to decide, and our country is about to change hands, and we just ask that the Lord will be with us this year, especially in November," Dobson said.

In recent months, Dobson, founder of the Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Focus on the Family, has denounced all three remaining presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Dobson, whose wife Shirley is the chairman of the National Day of Prayer, prayed that "His will and His purposes would be ordained for this country." He concluded by saying, "The Lord has blessed us with great leaders for so long, so many decades and centuries, and we just ask for His blessing to be upon us."

One congressional attendee, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), told Cybercast News Service that faith and politics do mix, saying that the prayer observance is important for the nation because God was important to the nation's Founding Fathers.

"Back when the Founding Fathers first came to this country, they came from a land where people were given their rights by kings and queens - by the royalty," Aderholt said.

In America, all rights, especially human rights, come from God, the former Alabama circuit judge said.

"If God gives you rights, man can't take them away," he said. "If a man such as a king gives you rights, the king can take them away," he added.

Aderholt said it is important to have a system where God is acknowledged, "not as a theocracy, not as a system where you have an established church or where anybody is forced to do anything , but acknowledgement of God, realizing that all men were created in the sight of God, meaning that another man can't take those rights away."

That point was underscored by the presence this year of Chinese Christians at National Day of Prayer festivities.

John Pan, director of Initiatives for China, a human rights group, said an observance like the one on Capitol Hill would simply not be allowed in Communist China.

"We believe that the need for China is not just for political reform - but also a spiritual awakening - for the people to realize that we all have the image of God," Pan said ld Cybercast News Service .

Pan noted the fact that, just days ago, Chinese security forces attacked Buddhist monks and clashed with protesters in Tibet, killing more than a dozen Tibetans.

"We need to respect every human being, every soul, regardless of their agenda, their religious background," Pan said. "So far, that image is not very well respected in China."

The National Day of Prayer is congressionally authorized to be held on the first Thursday in May. It was signed into law by President Harry Truman in 1952.
_____________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 6, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 06, 2008, 09:26:44 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 6, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Only 5% of Adults Tithed Last Year, Barna Survey Says
    * Missionaries Struggle as Dollar's Value Declines
    * Taxpayer Dollars Fund Islamic Public School in Minnesota
    * Myanmar Death Toll Could Top 10,000, Foreign Minister Says

Only 5% of Adults Tithed Last Year, Barna Survey Says

Baptist Press reports that only five percent of American adults donated 10 percent or more of their income to churches and charitable groups last year, according to a study by The Barna Group. Within the randomly selected group of 1,006 adults surveyed, Christians tended to give more than others. "Among the most generous segments were evangelicals (24 percent of whom tithed); conservatives (12 percent); people who had prayed, read the Bible and attended a church service during the past week (12 percent); charismatic or Pentecostal Christians (11 percent); and registered Republicans (10 percent)," George Barna said. The segments of society who were highly unlikely to tithe included people under the age of 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults who have never been married, liberals and adults who make less than $20,000 per year, the research indicated.

Missionaries Struggle as Dollar's Value Declines

The Charlotte Observer tells the story of American missionary Phil Davis, whose family receives a deposit of American money in his Czech bank account every month. And every month, he sees that deposit shrink. The Davises moved to Prague three years ago to start a church. But since then, they've noticed that the money they raised to support their work overseas does not go nearly as far as it once did. Missionaries serving internationally are particularly at risk as the dollar declines, since many depend on money raised years before they left, when exchange rates were more favorable. It leaves the Davises and fellow missionaries facing questions like: Should they move to a smaller house farther from those they're trying to reach? Where can they save on groceries? Can they raise enough money to stay? "It's kind of like the frog in the kettle thing," Phil Davis said. "It just creeps up on you." But all is not glum: "(Missionaries) are totally dependent on the Lord to carry them through, and he does, and the work goes on," said Vince Eaton, coordinator of the missions/outreach leadership team at Calvary Church in Charlotte. "It's not going to stop the spread of the Gospel, believe me."

Taxpayer Dollars Fund Islamic Public School in Minnesota

Baptist Press reports that taxpayers are funding an Islamic public school in Minnesota even in a culture that would not tolerate the funding of a Christian school, according to a report in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The Tarek ibn Ziyad Academy was founded in 2003 by two imams who were leaders of the Muslim American Society of Minnesota (MAS-MN), and it shares the Muslim society's headquarters building along with a mosque. Most of the 300 students are from low-income Muslim immigrant families, and the school has a waiting list of 1,500. "TIZA uses the language of culture rather than religion to describe its program in public documents," the Star-Tribune report says. "According to its mission statement, the school 'recognizes and appreciates the traditions, histories, civilizations and accomplishments of the eastern world (Africa, Asia and Middle East).'" However, the report says, "the line between religion and culture is often blurry. There are strong indications that religion plays a central role at TIZA, which is a public school financed by Minnesota taxpayers."

Myanmar Death Toll Could Top 10,000, Foreign Minister Says

The Christian Post reports that the death toll from a devastating cyclone in Myanmar could reach more than 10,000, the country's foreign minister warned Monday. Tropical Cyclone Nargis hit the Southeast Asian country, formerly Burma, early Saturday with winds of up to 120 mph. Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless. "The government misled people. They could have warned us about the severity of the coming cyclone so we could be better prepared," said Thin Thin, a grocery store owner. One radio report said 3,939 people had already been killed. Foreign Minister Nyan Win reportedly told diplomats that the death toll could rise to more than 10,000 in the Irrawaddy delta. The U.S. State Department said Myanmar's government had not granted permission for a Disaster Assistance Response Team into the country. Laura Blank, spokeswoman for World Vision, said two assessment teams have been sent to the hardest hit areas to determine the most urgent needs. She called the situation, "probably the most devastating natural disaster in Southeast Asia since the tsunami" of 2004.


Title: Myanmar Cyclone: Relief Assessment Begins
Post by: nChrist on May 09, 2008, 02:28:57 AM
Myanmar Cyclone: Relief Assessment Begins
Baptist Press

NASHVILLE -- Southern Baptists are moving to respond in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis, which struck Myanmar, a country in Southeast Asia also known as Burma, early May 3. The latest death toll stands at 22,000, with another 41,000 missing.

Nearly half the country's population, some 24 million people, have been affected by the storm, which knocked out electricity in Yangon, the country's largest city, and left up to 1 million people homeless. The United Nation's World Food Program said some villages have been virtually wiped out and vast rice-growing areas destroyed from the cyclone's winds of up to 120 mph.

Relief organizations are concerned about outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and illnesses such as diarrhea that often occur in the wake of natural disasters because of dirty water and poor sanitation.

Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization, is working with its local partners in Myanmar to get an on-ground assessment of the situation, but the massive disruption of communications and travel ports is making that difficult, said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. Stringent rules placed upon foreigners by the military government also complicate matters.

"At this time, BGR is doing all it can to assess and respond to this urgent need," Palmer said. "We have made initial contact with some on-ground partners and have readied funds to be used for food, shelter and other emergency needs.

"It looks, however, as if it will be a few days before we can get government permission and resources in place to respond in an adequate manner," Palmer added. "This seems to be a pattern that all relief and development agencies are experiencing at this point.

"Please pray for the people of Myanmar and those who are suffering," Palmer said. "Pray also that we will find ways to get to the people in need in a timely manner."

Myanmar's military regime has signaled it will welcome aid from international organizations, which is unusual because the isolated country usually is suspicious of international organizations and closely controls their activities.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 7, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 09, 2008, 02:31:15 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 7, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * NEA's Cizik among Time's 100 Most Influential People
    * "Evangelical Manifesto" Calls for Reform
    * Bible College Housing Cyclone Survivors in Myanmar
    * Religious Freedom Panel Urges State Dept. to Take Action

NEA's Cizik among Time's 100 Most Influential People

The Rev. Richard Cizik, the face of the green evangelical movement, was named among Time magazine's top 100 most influential people in the world for 2008, ASSIST News Service reports. Cizik, an ordained Evangelical Presbyterian minister and head of the Office of Government Affairs for the US National Association of Evangelicals (NAE), was honored alongside environmental partner Dr. Eric Chivian, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. "The bringing together of the scientists and the Evangelical Christians is a rather unusual event, since these two groups have really been at odds for a very long time," Chivian said. Cizik commented: "Science without religion loses its ethical guide, and religion without science lacks the means and resources to understand the world. Science enables us to better understand what creation is telling us about itself and its Maker. You can't separate either these principles... taking care of the earth and the sanctity of life -- they overlap."

"Evangelical Manifesto" Calls for Reform


According to a report on the World on the Web website, 80 evangelical leaders are signing an "Evangelical Manifesto" that rebukes both liberal and conservative evangelicals for diminishing the Gospel to fight the culture wars. The Manifesto, due out Wednesday May 7, encourages political engagement, but says evangelicals have sometimes spoken "truth without love" and calls on evangelicals to "reform our own behavior." It's not without its critics. Warner Todd Huston calls the manifesto "another attempt by the political left to undermine the devotion of Christians to the political right," and asks why the project "studiously excluded so many prominent conservative Christians." Names known to be attached to the Manifesto include: Os Guinness, academic and author; Richard Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary; Timothy George, founding dean of Beeson Divinity School; and Rick Warren.

Bible College Housing Cyclone Survivors in Myanmar

According to Christian Newswire, a Gospel for Asia Bible college in Yangon, Myanmar is now a makeshift shelter for those devastated by Cyclone Nargis. "One of our correspondents was at the Bible college in Rangoon when the storm hit. He was able to obtain information and get on one of the only flights out of the country to deliver a report and photos of the devastation," said GFA President K.P. Yohannan. "The people in Burma live in clusters of small communities in simple bamboo structures. These villages are not made of concrete. I imagine that literally hundreds of these simple structures were just blown away." More than 80 people -- along with 70 children from a nearby orphanage -- made their way to the Bible college campus. Buddhist monks are also at the college, seeking assistance.

Religious Freedom Panel Urges State Dept. to Take Action

Baptist Press reports that a bipartisan United States commission has called for designation of the same 11 countries that it recommended last year as the world's worst violators of religious liberty as it awaits a long overdue response from the State Department. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) released its annual report May 2, again urging Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to keep Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Uzbekistan as "countries of particular concern" (CPCs). The independent panel also repeated its recommendation that Rice add Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam to the CPC list. CPC designation is reserved for governments that have "engaged in or tolerated systemic and egregious violations of religious freedom." Rice, however, has not designated any CPCs in 18 months.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 8, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 09, 2008, 02:33:15 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 8, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Islamists Threaten to Tear Down Church in Indonesia
    * Armed Men Threaten Church in Turkey
    * Mission Groups Reach Out to Cyclone Survivors in Myanmar
    * Creation Museum Celebrates One Year

Islamists Threaten to Tear Down Church in Indonesia

Compass Direct News reports that Muslim extremists and local government authorities last week threatened to tear down a church building under construction in North Sumatra even though church leaders met requirements of Indonesia's draconian law on worship places, the church's pastor said. Emboldened by local authorities' unwillingness to grant a church building permit to Protestant Bataks Christian Church (HKBP), some 100 Muslim extremists accompanied by government officials on April 29 tried to destroy the building under construction in Jati Makmur village, North Binjai. The Rev. Monang Silaban, HKBP pastor, said about 100 members of the Islamic extremist Front Pembela Islam, some armed with "sharp weapons," arrived at 4:30 p.m. accompanied by Binjai municipal officials, who brought a bulldozer. Police met with church and Muslim extremist group leaders following the confrontation and reached an agreement that construction on the building would cease until the permit is approved -- something that hasn't happened in the two years since HKBP applied.

Armed Men Threaten Church in Turkey

Three men, one of them armed with a gun and wearing gloves, threatened a Protestant church and its pastor in the Turkish capital city of Ankara, Compass Direct News reports. The culprits fled in a car before police could be summoned. The men drove up to Kurtulus Church in Ankara's Cebeci district, and a heavy-set man about 45 years old went up to the locked church building and began to ring the doorbell repeatedly. He threatened to "get rid" of the pastor, and moments later one of the men in his car began walking toward a nearby church member, shouting and waving a pistol at him. The attempted attack marked the seventh incident in the past four months of threatened violence against Turkey's tiny Protestant community, most of whom are former Muslims who converted to Christianity.

Mission Groups Reach Out to Cyclone Survivors in Myanmar

ASSIST News Service reports that mission organizations and aid agencies are gearing up to bring relief to the survivors of Myanmar after the devastation wreaked by Cyclone Nargis. At the time of writing, the death toll is estimated to be at least 22,000 with another 41,000 missing. HCJB Global reported on two of the organizations planning to offer assistance. "The suffering of the people is unimaginable," HCJB reported Gospel for Asia (GFA) President K.P. Yohannan said, speaking from India where he is monitoring the situation. "Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, are homeless. Food is in short supply, and prices are skyrocketing. Electricity may be out for months. People have lost literally everything." A GFA Bible college in Yangon, Myanmar has become a makeshift shelter for some of those devastated by the cyclone. GFA said obtaining enough food to feed all those at the college is another challenge. Banks are closed and fresh food and water are in short supply. Yohannan said, "We are facing at least six months of continuous work ministering to the people. This is a tremendous opportunity for us to reach out in love to them, just like we did after the tsunami in 2004."

Creation Museum Celebrates One Year

After opening with much fanfare and acclaim one year ago on Memorial Day weekend, and with over 387,000 visitors to date, the Answers in Genesis Creation Museum plans to make its first anniversary no less spectacular, ASSIST News Service reports. It will also mark the opening of a petting zoo across the lake from the museum. Beginning on May 23 and running through June 1, the museum has multiple special events scheduled daily, including popular museum speakers, a live musical theatrical production, the petting zoo with exotic animals, and tethered hot air balloon rides over the grounds. "We have so much to celebrate, with all the attention that the museum has received and the number of people we have reached with the Creation message," said Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis president, CEO, and the visionary behind the museum. "We are grateful for God's blessings, and look forward to welcoming our 400,000th visitor very soon."
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Title: Myanmar Dictators Making Propaganda out of Suffering
Post by: nChrist on May 13, 2008, 09:11:12 AM
Myanmar Dictators Making Propaganda out of Suffering
Dan Wooding

May 12, 2008

MYANMAR -- Myanmar's military regime was distributing international aid on May 10. But it was covering the boxes with the names of top generals in an effort to turn the relief effort for last week's devastating cyclone into a propaganda exercise, say news agencies.

According to www.ekklesia.co.uk, the United Nations sent in three more planes and several trucks loaded with aid, though the junta took over its first two shipments. The government agreed to let a US cargo plane bring in supplies Monday, but foreign disaster experts were still being barred entry.

"State-run television continuously ran images of top generals -- including the junta leader, Senior General Than Shwe -- handing out boxes of aid to survivors at elaborate ceremonies," said the Ekklesia story.

One box bore the name of Lt. General Myint Swe, a rising star in the government hierarchy, in bold letters that overshadowed a smaller label reading: "Aid from the Kingdom of Thailand."

"We have already seen regional commanders putting their names on the side of aid shipments from Asia, saying this was a gift from them and then distributing it in their region," said Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, which campaigns for human rights and democracy in Myanmar.

"It is not going to areas where it is most in need," he declared.

State media say 23,335 people died and 37,019 are missing from Cyclone Nargis, which submerged entire villages in the Irrawaddy delta. International aid organizations say the death toll could climb to more than 100,000 as conditions worsen.

The Ekklesia story concluded by saying, "The United Nations estimates that 1.5 million to 2 million people have been severely affected and has voiced concern about the disposal of bodies."
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Title: Exiled Burmese Leader Blames China for Post-Cyclone Suffering
Post by: nChrist on May 13, 2008, 09:12:28 AM
Exiled Burmese Leader Blames China for Post-Cyclone Suffering
Penny Starr

Washington (CNSNews.com) - The exiled leader of Burma, Sein Win, made a plea to the international community Friday, calling on China to use its influence over Burma's military rulers to accept aid for the survivors of a devastating May 3 cyclone.

The storm, with winds up to 190 miles an hour, killed as many as 100,000 people and left many more homeless and at risk of starvation or from deadly diseases.

"I ... implore the entire international community to join me in asking China to exert its power and influence now on the military junta in Burma and demand that international aid - and international aid workers and experts -- be allowed into Burma immediately," Win said at a press conference at the National Press Club.

"We are running out of time," Win said. "A tsunami of death from epidemics, including cholera, malaria, malnutrition and starvation is hitting Burma at this very moment."

Win was part of the first democratically elected government in Burma since a military coup seized power in 1962. Shortly after the 1990 election, the military reasserted itself by arresting the new leaders. In 1990, Win fled the country, which the ruling junta has renamed "Myanmar."

Win and other officials who escaped created an exiled government, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma. Win was named prime minister in exile.

At the press conference, Win said China's ongoing support of military rule in Myanmar means it has the power to influence the government to accept international aid.

"From the weapons China provides, to the votes China provides on the United Nations Security Council, the military government of Burma is dependent on the strong and consistent support it gets from the Chinese government," Win said.

Win's plea includes letters to officials of governments around the world, including the United States. He said he had not heard from the Bush administration on the China issue.

China, which is preparing to host the 2008 Olympics in August, has come under global criticism for its poor human rights record, including its treatment of the Tibetan people and its support of Sudan, which has been accused of genocide in its Darfur province.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 13, 2008, 09:14:16 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 12, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * CFI Dispatches Cyclone Aid Despite Confiscation by Myanmar Government
    * Algerian Christian Sentenced for Carrying Bible
    * Pastors Encouraged to Challenge IRS Ban on Political Preaching
    * Poll Shows Shift among U.S. Catholics After Papal Visit

CFI Dispatches Cyclone Aid Despite Confiscation by Myanmar Government

ASSIST News Service reports that Michigan-based humanitarian organization Christian Freedom International is embarking on a unique mission to get desperately needed relief aid into cyclone-ravaged Myanmar despite government confiscation of relief at the international airport in Rangoon. CFI's efforts are coming at a time when other international assistance has been rejected by the Burmese government; as U.N. food aid shipments have already been confiscated by the military for its own use; and, as reported by the AP, a boat laden with relief supplies -- one of the first international shipments -- sank on its way to the disaster zone. The latest death toll from the storm has climbed to nearly 29,000. Despite the overwhelming need for food, shelter, clean drinking water, and medical supplies for thousands of survivors, the junta remains adamant in its refusal to accept the help of a major international relief operation, insisting that it alone will distribute emergency aid among the cyclone victims. "Conventional ways of delivering aid just doesn't work in [Myanmar]," says Jim Jacobson, president of Christian Freedom International.

Algerian Christian Sentenced for Carrying Bible


An Algerian Christian detained five days for carrying a Bible and personal Bible study books was handed a 300-euro (US $460) fine and a one-year suspended prison sentence last week, an Algerian church leader said. Compass Direct News reports that on Tuesday April 29, a court in Djilfa charged the 33-year-old Muslim convert to Christianity with "printing, storing and distributing" illegal religious material. A written copy of the verdict has yet to be issued. The Protestant, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told fellow Christians in his home city of Tiaret that police pressured him to return to Islam while in custody. The conviction is the latest in a wave of detentions and court cases against Algeria's Protestants and Catholics.

Pastors Encouraged to Challenge IRS Ban on Political Preaching

The Christian Post reports that "conservative legal advocates are recruiting pastors nationwide to defy an IRS ban on preaching about politicians, in a challenge they hope will abolish the restriction. The Alliance Defense Fund will ask clergy to deliver a sermon about specific candidates Sept. 28. If the action triggers an IRS investigation, the legal group will sue to overturn the federal rules, which were enacted in 1954. Under the IRS code, churches can distribute voter guides, run voter registration drives, hold forums on public policy and invite politicians to speak at their congregations. However, they cannot endorse a candidate, and their political activity cannot be biased for or against a candidate, directly or indirectly."

Poll Shows Shift among U.S. Catholics After Papal Visit

According to Christian Newswire, new polling data released by the Knights of Columbus shows that Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the United States in April produced a sharp jump in the proportion of American Catholics with a more positive view of the pope following his trip. The Marist College Institute for Public Opinion interviewed 1,013 American adults in the week following the pope's return to Rome. Both practicing and non-practicing Catholics showed increased favor for the pontiff. The proportion of practicing Catholics describing Benedict positively as a spiritual leader went from 70% before the visit to 82% afterward. Among non-practicing Catholics, the proportion went from 62% before the visit to 79% afterward. And a majority of Catholics, 54%, said they were more in touch with their spiritual values as a result of the pope's visit.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 13, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 13, 2008, 09:16:14 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 13, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Millions Pray 'Your Kingdom Come' on Global Day of Prayer
    * Franklin Graham Delivers Historic Message to 12,000 in China
    * Medical Teams International Reaches Devastated Families in Myanmar
    * Earthquake Kills Thousands in China

Millions Pray 'Your Kingdom Come' on Global Day of Prayer

ASSIST News Service reports that millions of Christians around the world raised their hands up in united prayer and worship on Pentecost Sunday as part of the fourth annual Global Day of Prayer. According to christiantoday.com, the UK was among at least 201 nations registered to take part, with major prayer and cathedral events taking place across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland under the common theme of "Your Kingdom come... on Earth as in Heaven." "In London, thousands of Christians gathered at Millwall football stadium in London to pray for God's love and Holy Spirit to fall upon London, particularly communities blighted by gun and knife crime," said Mackay. The message on the day was overwhelmingly one of hope and unity. "When the church unites in prayer there is no stopping it," said Jonathan Oloyede, senior Associate Pastor of Glory House and visionary of Global Day of Prayer London. "Prayer changes things."

Franklin Graham Delivers Historic Message to 12,000 in China

Franklin Graham first visited mainland China with his father 20 years ago. Sunday, says a DeMossNewsPond release, the younger Graham delivered an historic message, preaching to 12,000 people in the largest church in the nation. "Franklin Graham's May 11 sermon at Hangzhou Chong-Yi Christian Church is very significant," said the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.  "It highlights the strong possibility for cooperation that exists between United States and Chinese religious institutions and marks a positive path forward." Preaching a Gospel message about the cross, Graham asked those in attendance to stand if they wanted to become followers of Jesus Christ. 1,250 people responded to the invitation. According to senior pastor Rev. Joseph GU, this event was the largest gathering ever at Hangzhou Chong-Yi Christian Church.  Bibles were also given out to those who responded and the church will provide an eight-week course for them on the basics of the Christian faith.

Medical Teams International Reaches Devastated Families in Myanmar

Medical Teams International is addressing critical health needs in Myanmar by helping local partners purchase medicines and supplies for families devastated by Cyclone Yargis. UN officials estimate the death toll from last week's cyclone may reach more than 100,000 in the coming days--especially if critically needed aid fails to arrive soon. Working with partner World Concern in Yangon, Medical Teams International is helping to prevent a second disaster--a looming health crisis caused by the lack of drinking water, poor sanitation, crowded temporary shelters and a devastated health care system. Medical Teams International medical volunteers and staff are also on standby in various countries, waiting for visa approval to enter Myanmar.  Once these approvals are received, these volunteers and staff will provide direct medical care and help local partners expand their efforts to prevent and treat disease. "There are people in Myanmar who need help now," says Bas Vanderzalm, president of Medical Teams International. "They cannot wait for outside assistance."

Earthquake Kills Thousands in China

CNN.com reports that the Chinese government has said nearly 10,000 people have died, with the death toll sure to rise, in a 7.9-magnitude earthquake that hit around 2:45 p.m. Monday. The epicenter of the quake was in Sichuan province, but reports indicated tremors could be felt throughout most of China. The quake was the largest the region has seen "for over a generation." The CNN story states, "The Red Cross Society of China, coordinating some of the international aid efforts, encouraged financial donations because of the difficulty of getting supplies to those most in need.At least six different schools collapsed to some extent in the quake or aftershocks that followed, Xinhua reported. At one school, almost 900 students -- all eighth graders and ninth graders, according to a local villager -- were believed to be buried."

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Title: Taiwan Offers Help After Deadly Earthquake in China
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:33:56 PM
Taiwan Offers Help After Deadly Earthquake in China
Patrick Goodenough

(CNSNews.com) - Setting aside differences over its longstanding dispute with China, Taiwan has offered to deploy search and rescue personnel to the mainland's southwestern Sichuan province, where China's biggest earthquake in three decades reportedly killed some 10,000 people.

Taiwanese non-governmental charity groups also were offering help, the island's Central News Agency reported.

Offers to send rescue teams were made through the Straits Exchange Foundation, a quasi-official body set up in Taiwan to handle relations with the mainland. The two governments do not have official ties, as Beijing regards Taiwan as a renegade province.

"Taiwan is willing to cooperate with the international community to participate in disaster relief and reconstruction work," outgoing President Chen Shui-bian said.

President-elect Ma Ying-jeou, who will be inaugurated in a week's time, also voiced concern, saying in a statement that he was willing to help coordinate a relief effort. Ma's nationalist Kuomintang (KMT) party also pledged humanitarian aid, in a message sent to China's Communist Party.

It was not immediately clear whether the Chinese government would take up the offers of help. Chinese state-run media briefly recorded the KMT condolence statement, but did not include the Taiwanese government's response with reactions from other governments.

Relations across the Taiwan Strait have long been strained, with Taiwanese goodwill tested frequently over China's successful blocking of its efforts to function as a normal member of the international community (When a deadly earthquake hit central Taiwan in 1999, China's insistence that aid from the Red Cross and Russia be channeled through the mainland delayed its arrival. Taipei said at the time that China had also prevented regional World Health Organization experts from visiting the scene.)

Taiwan has a national team of specialist rescue personnel, falling under the Interior Department's National Fire Administration. It has drawn praise in the past after dispatching teams to help search for survivors of disasters in countries including the Philippines, El Salvador and Iran.

The 72-hour period following an earthquake is considered a window of opportunity during which survivors trapped by rubble can still be saved.

Monday's quake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter scale, was felt in many parts of China, including Beijing almost 1,000 miles away, and in some neighboring Southeast Asian countries as well.

Coming less than three months before China hosts its most high-profile international event ever, the Beijing Olympics, the disaster will be a test of the government's ability to deal quickly and effectively with an unexpected national crisis.

Beijing mounted a huge relief effort, mobilizing troops, aircraft and emergency medical teams, and setting up a disaster relief headquarters under the direction of Premier Wen Jiabao, who flew to a city about 60 miles from the epicenter within hours of the quake.

Early Tuesday morning, Wen ordered the military to do its best to reach the worst-hit area -- access roads in the mountainous region have been cut off by rocks and mudslides -- within hours. By then, almost 17,000 soldiers had been deployed and another 34,000 were "advancing towards the disaster-hit regions by planes, trains, and trucks, and on foot," the Xinhua news agency reported.

State media showed images of Wen using a megaphone to encourage and comfort people trapped in collapsed buildings. Rescuers used cranes, heavy equipment and their hands to lift rubble.

Among those feared dead were hundreds of students in a collapsed middle school building, where more than 60 bodies had already been recovered. Xinhua reported that teenage students trapped beneath the debris were heard crying out for help.

President Bush in a statement of condolence said he was "particularly saddened by the number of students and children affected by this tragedy." The U.S. was ready to help in any way possible, he said.
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Title: Already in China, Franklin Graham, Samaritan's Purse Respond
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:35:41 PM
Already in China, Franklin Graham, Samaritan's Purse Respond
Jeremy Reynalds

May 14, 2008

SHANGHAI, CHINA -- Within hours of a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that crumbled buildings and killed thousands of people in the Sichuan Province of western China on Monday, international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse responded to the crisis.

According to a news release, Franklin Graham, president and CEO of Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, is currently on a 10-day visit to China where he is meeting with government and church leaders in Beijing, Hangzhou, Nanjing and Shanghai.

When he learned about the devastating earthquake, Graham committed $150,000 to assist with the immediate disaster response. The relief organization is continuing to look for additional ways it can contribute to earthquake relief efforts.

According to the news release, Graham met with Elder Fu Xian-Wei, chairman of the Three Self Patriotic Movement, and Rev. Gao Feng, president of the China Christian Council, at the organizations' national headquarters in Shanghai.

"This donation is very important to the people of China because it shows the love of God for all people," said Gao in the news release. "This will encourage more Chinese people to do the same, and to reach out to their neighbors in need. Franklin Graham's visit is bringing us much more understanding and encouragement for each other."

Graham said in the news release, "On behalf of my father, Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, we want the people of China to know that we are praying for each person impacted by this disaster. Recovery efforts are underway, but you can never recover the loss of a life. We want to do anything we can to assist with this crisis, so we are committing these funds for initial support of the local church as they assist with the relief efforts."

Graham said he has been impressed with how the Chinese government has responded to the earthquake. He said that he is meeting daily with officials in China to assess the need and offer assistance.

Graham added, "I would ask all Christians in the United States to pray for the people of China and the church here, as they reach out to their fellow citizens with God's love and compassion."

According to the news release, China's earthquake is just one of several major natural disasters Samaritan's Purse is responding to around the world.

The organization has also been helping in Myanmar, where the United Nations estimates that more than a million people who survived Cyclone Nargis are now in life threatening danger because of hunger and disease.

According to the news release, Samaritan's Purse currently has an airlift scheduled to transport about 20 tons of relief supplies from Bangkok, Thailand to Yangon, Myanmar. This is the first of a number of planned upcoming flights. The relief supplies include water purification systems, plastic for temporary shelter, blankets, clothing and mosquito netting.

In the United States, after a series of deadly tornadoes raked across several states over the weekend, Samaritan's Purse has deployed its Disaster Relief Unit to help with recovery efforts.

According to the news relief, Samaritan's Purse is focusing its initial response on Georgia, where at least half a dozen tornados damaged an estimated 6,000 homes. The Samaritan's Purse tornado relief convoy includes tractor trailers filled with plastic sheeting, construction equipment and building materials which will be used to help make emergency repairs to homes and remove storm debris.
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Title: Situation Remains Critical for Cyclone-Devastated Children, Families in Myanmar
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:37:01 PM
Situation Remains Critical for Cyclone-Devastated Children, Families in Myanmar
Jeremy Reynalds
May 16, 2008

MYANMAR -- World Vision has been working around the clock to assist more than 100,000 children and adults with essentials like water, clothing, and temporary shelters.

Its team in Myanmar plans to provide aid to nearly 500,000 cyclone survivors if it can get the additional funds, expertise, and supplies to the affected areas. Staff on the ground are already seeing cases of waterborne diseases, and the health of children is of critical concern.

"We are now getting relief supplies into the delta area, where there is staggering need," said Steve Goudswaard, World Vision's cyclone response manager, in a news release. "If we can maintain the access to survivors and increase our supplies, we will be able to reach almost half a million people."

According to World Vision, an operation base has been set up in the eastern part of the delta in a town called Pyapon -- about a four-hour drive from Yangon, Myanmar's largest city -- through which aid is beginning to flow. World Vision staff members have been trucking emergency kits, assembled by a team in Yangon, down to the base. Pyapon is close to three of the worst affected townships in the delta region.

The aid to Myanmar began to move after the government permitted access to those in need. World Vision said in a news release that the organization has complete control over its aid.

In Myaung Mya, an area about 30 miles north of the devastated town of Labutta, World Vision's national staff said in a news release that approximately 30,000 people are need food, water, and medical attention. Children -- many of them orphans -- are suffering from fever, diarrhea, and respiratory infections.

World Vision has been supplying clean water to survivors in the Irrawaddy area. Our teams also have started chlorinating wells, providing water tanks, and disinfecting camp sites with bleaching powder.

Meanwhile, in Yangon, World Vision reported that more than 78,000 people have received clean water, rice, and other emergency aid, such as clothing, blankets, and tarpaulins. Diesel fuel is being distributed to operate water pumps.

World Vision said its staff have also have distributed sterile dressings, anti-bacterial medicines, mosquito nets, and disinfectants, but additional resources are needed.

The organization said that much of this equipment is available, and could be within the country in hours from World Vision's global warehouses in Dubai and Frankfurt.

A World Vision news release stated, "We hope to conduct aid flights from these locations in the next few days, as soon as we receive clearance from the government of Myanmar."

According to World Vision, its current short-term emergency response phase will be followed by a two- to-three-year rehabilitation and reconstruction phase. World Vision plans to increase the number of its staff from the current 580, and provide specialized training to ensure an effective response.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 14, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:38:38 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 14, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Christians Respond Promptly to China Quake
    * Pope Asks Israel: Help Keep Catholics in Holy Land
    * Florida Pastor Forrest Pollock and Son Killed in Plane Crash
    * College Official Fired for Column on Homosexuality

Christians Respond Promptly to China Quake

The Christian Post reports that Monday's jolting 7.9 magnitude earthquake in China's southwestern Sichuan province was the worst natural disaster to strike the Middle Kingdom in over three decades. An estimated 12,000 dead; another 18,645 people were still buried in and around Mianyang, according to Xinhua News Agency. Christian groups were among the first to respond to the crisis. World Vision said it had relief and aid workers ready to deploy at any notice. Evangelist Franklin Graham, head of Samaritan's Purse, is currently traveling through China. He indicated that Samaritan's Purse, would be ready to send aid immediately during a meeting with Chinese officials. That the earthquake happened so soon after the cyclone disaster in Burma has raised attention to the prompt readiness and dedication of Christian relief organizations.

Pope Asks Israel: Help Keep Catholics in Holy Land

According to Reuters, Pope Benedict appealed to Israel on Monday to help stem a sharp decline in the country's minority Christian population. The Pope noted that Catholics have grown particularly vulnerable to Middle East conflicts. As part of his plea, the Pope also called for greater mobility for Palestinians as they travel to places of worship. "I know that you share my concern over the alarming decline in the Christian population in the Middle East, including Israel, through emigration," the pontiff said. "I pray that... ways will be found of reassuring the Christian community, so that they can experience the hope of a secure and peaceful future in their ancestral homelands."


Florida Pastor Forrest Pollock and Son Killed in Plane Crash

Florida pastor Forrest Pollock and a 13-year-old son were killed May 12 when the single-engine plane Pollock was flying crashed in North Carolina, Baptist Press reports. Pollock, 44, had been pastor of the Tampa-area Bell Shoals Baptist Church in Brandon since 2002. According to the Citizen-Times in Asheville, N.C., rescue officials confirmed the deaths of Pollock and his son Preston, who were reported missing after their 5 a.m. takeoff. They had made a stop in North Carolina on Sunday, May 11, and were headed to a preaching engagement in Texas. Debris from the single-engine plane was found Tuesday morning by rescuers in a heavily wooded area on a ridge north of Cold Mountain in the Shining Rock Wilderness. Pollock is survived by his wife Dawn and five other children, Courtney, 15; Brooke, 14; Hope, 12; Blake, 10; and Kirk, 8. He was to have been a featured speaker at the Southern Baptist Convention's June 10-11 annual meeting in Indianapolis.

College Official Fired for Column on Homosexuality

CNSNews.com has learned that a University of Toledo administrator has lost her job because she wrote a newspaper commentary that questioned whether homosexuality is a civil rights issue. Crystal Dixon, the associate vice president of human resources at the state university, had earlier been put on paid administrative leave for the Apr. 18 column published in the Toledo Free Press. "She has been fired," said Brian Rooney, spokesman for the Thomas More Law Center, the legal-defense group which is representing Dixon. Rooney told CNS that the university had offered Dixon "another position, in a different part of the university, not in human resources" because she had argued in her editorial that sexual orientation is not an immutable characteristic like race or sex and should not be afforded the same protection under civil rights laws. "She said no, that's when she was fired," Rooney said. "We are going to do everything we can within the law to try to show that the firing was improper and potentially illegal." Tobin Klinger, senior director of university communications at the university, confirmed that Dixon was no longer an employee, but said he "couldn't elaborate" on whether she was fired or for what reason.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 15, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:40:20 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 15, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China Aid Asks World Churches to Pray for Earthquake Victims
    * Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Ministering to Mother's Day Weekend Tornado Victims
    * Relief Assessment Begins in China
    * Bills Would Give Teachers Freedom Teaching Evolution

China Aid Asks World Churches to Pray for Earthquake Victims

A ministry to the people of China is calling upon the churches of the world to pray for and provide aid for the victims of the earthquake in Sichuan province, ASSIST News Service reports. China Aid Association (CAA) released a statement that it "mourns with the suffering Chinese people during this moment of great loss." CAA is actively collaborating with the Chinese house churches to send love gifts to help survivors. Meanwhile, CAA says it has learned that earlier this week, in spite of the attention garnered by of the rescue efforts for victims of the earthquake, one house church Bible School in Hebei was raided and forced to close. CAA says three computer hard disks were taken and the students were dispersed back to their hometowns forcefully. This particular Bible school was established in 2006 by missionaries from South Korea.

Billy Graham Rapid Response Team Ministering to Mother's Day Weekend Tornado Victims


ASSIST News Service reports that the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team has deployed to three additional locations in the wake of the deadliest tornado season in a decade across the United States. These deployments range from Oklahoma to Georgia. A media release says that in Oklahoma, the Rapid Response Team of crisis-trained chaplains are initially basing their ministry out of Picher, a small town of 800 in the northeastern part of the state which, according to the Associated Press, was home to six of the 22 people who died over the weekend. The Picher team is branching out Joplin, Missouri as well. 14 people in southwestern Missouri were killed by tornadoes. In Georgia, the chaplains will be working alongside Samaritan's Purse in Bibb County, where an estimated 2,000 homes were damaged. "We tend to feel so safe at home, like tragedies will never touch us," says Jack Munday, director of the Billy Graham Rapid Response Team. "But this year has shown us again that death and destruction can literally drop out of the sky... That's why it's so important to respond immediately with love, hope and comfort in the midst of the physical and emotional storm."

Relief Assessment Begins in China

Baptist Press reports that Southern Baptist relief workers are in touch with partners in central China to assess needs created by the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck the region May 12. At least 12,000 people were killed and more than 26,000 injured. Another 18,000 people are believed trapped in piles of rubble in the city of Mianyang alone. "We have been in contact with partners in the country and have offered help," said Jeff Palmer, executive director of Baptist Global Response. "Assessments are being made as to what the response should be." A meeting of Christian organizations in the United States is expected to be held May 14 "to better coordinate our overall effort to respond," Palmer added. The Chinese government has said it will accept international relief supplies but has so far declined offers of aid workers because of damage to lines of transportation.

Bills Would Give Teachers Freedom Teaching Evolution

According to a Baptist Press report, Ben Stein's movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," out less than a month, is already apparently having a significant impact in the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools. Legislatures in three states -- Louisiana, Michigan and Missouri -- are considering academic freedom bills that would give teachers greater protection and freedom in teaching the strengths and weaknesses of Darwinian evolution. Passage of any of the bills would be a first for any state. Similar bills in Alabama and Florida died this month, although the ones in the other states, particularly Louisiana, seem to stand a better chance. "There has definitely been a raising of consciousness among people that there is a problem of censoring scientific information that challenges evolution," said Casey Luskin of The Discovery Institute, a Seattle-based think tank that supports the bills. "I think 'Expelled' definitely has played a role. However, this [issue] isn't something that is brand-new.... I just think that the message is really getting out right now and the consciousness of our nation is really being raised to the fact that this is a very big problem."

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 16, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 16, 2008, 02:42:02 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 16, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China Aid's Fu Criticizes Franklin Graham's Remarks on Evangelism During the Olympics
    * California High Court Legalizes 'Gay Marriage'
    * Vatican: It's OK to Believe in Aliens
    * Bread for the World Urges Christians to Respond to Hunger Crisis

China Aid's Fu Criticizes Franklin Graham's Remarks on Evangelism During the Olympics

On his recent visit to China, Franklin Graham stated that Christians should not evangelize during the Olympic Games as it is against the law in that country. ASSIST News Service reports that Graham made his controversial remarks as he recently talked to reporters in China while visiting communist officials. The Chinese government has stated that evangelism will not be tolerated during the Olympics. The underground church thinks differently, according to one ministry leader. "It is a matter of who heads the church and it is certainly not the government," says Bob Fu, China Aid Association president in an interview with OneNewsNow. He believes the underground church welcomes evangelistic efforts. In response to Mr. Graham's "offensive and inappropriate comments" concerning his opposition to evangelism during the Beijing Olympic Games, Fu stated: "The Chinese Christians are law-abiding, patriotic citizens, but when an unjust law demands them to go against their faith and Jesus' teaching of the Great Commission, they can not and will not succeed to a 'faith moratorium' in order to please an atheistic government during the Olympic Games, even if that means enduring imprisonment and torture. Mr. Graham's comment is a deep offense to hundreds of House Church prisoners and their family members."

California High Court Legalizes 'Gay Marriage'

Baptist Press reports that the California Supreme Court Thursday issued a landmark decision, ordering the state to legalize "gay marriage," making it the second state in the nation to recognize "marriages" between homosexual couples. The decision sets up a dramatic political and cultural battle in November, when a constitutional marriage amendment that would protect the natural definition of marriage -- and reverse the court's ruling -- is expected to be on the ballot. The 4-3 ruling comes more than three years after Massachusetts' highest court also struck down that state's marriage laws. But the California ruling -- coming in the nation's most populous states -- easily is the biggest win yet for homosexual activists.

Vatican: It's OK to Believe in Aliens

According to an Associated Press report, "believing that the universe may contain alien life does not contradict a faith in God, the Vatican's chief astronomer said in an interview published Tuesday. The Rev. Jose Gabriel Funes, the Jesuit director of the Vatican Observatory, was quoted as saying the vastness of the universe means it is possible there could be other forms of life outside Earth, even intelligent ones. 'How can we rule out that life may have developed elsewhere?' Funes said. 'Just as we consider earthly creatures as "a brother," and "sister," why should we not talk about an "extraterrestrial brother"? It would still be part of creation.' In the interview by the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Funes said that such a notion 'doesn't contradict our faith' because aliens would still be God's creatures."

Bread for the World Urges Christians to Respond to Hunger Crisis

ASSIST News Service reports that Bread for the World has called on people of faith everywhere to respond to the growing hunger crisis all over the world. The organization is asking that people add their voices to the Recipe for Hope campaign which runs May 11 through June 15. "Of course the crisis cannot be solved within six weeks, but we want people of faith to know that they can make a difference by taking a series of simple but critical actions to end hunger now," said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. "Together we can turn the recipe for despair into a recipe for hope for thousands of mothers and fathers struggling to feed their families." The campaign is being conducted against the backdrop of a global hunger crisis that is fueled by rising food prices. Global food costs have nearly doubled in the last three years, with largest spikes for basic grains like rice, wheat, and corn. Bread for the World said the World Bank estimates that as many as 100 million people will this year join the ranks of 854 million poor and hungry people who currently do not have enough to eat each day.

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Title: Algeria Detains Christians Leaving Prayer Meeting
Post by: nChrist on May 19, 2008, 11:02:46 PM
Algeria Detains Christians Leaving Prayer Meeting
Peter Lamprecht

May 19, 2008

Protestants charged with distributing literature to "shake the faith of Muslims."

ISTANBUL -- Algerian authorities have charged six Christians with distributing illegal religious material after detaining them as they left a prayer meeting in a western city last week.

The Protestants were charged with "distributing documents to shake the faith of Muslims," according to a written court summons issued Saturday (May 10) prior to the men's release in Tiaret city. Their first hearing is scheduled for May 27.

During the detainees' overnight stay at a local police station, officers repeatedly threatened them for converting from Islam to Christianity, one of the Christians said.

"They said we were accomplices and the spies of the Jews, thus we deserve to have our throats cut without pity," said Djillali Saibi.

Though the court summons did not specify which law the men had violated, the charge quotes a February 2006 law, Ordinance 06-03, internationally criticized for restricting religious freedom. Algerian police and provincial governments have cited Ordinance 06-03 to justify a number of arrests and church closures in recent months.

At least 10 Protestants living in or visiting Tiaret have been detained or convicted since February. Approximately half the country's Protestant congregations have been ordered to close.

Citing security concerns, police ordered the predominantly Arab Muslim city's small group of Muslim converts to Christianity to discontinue meeting in members' homes last December.

Officials said that a bomb had been planted in one of the Christians' houses, though local church members claimed that the bomb threat was just an excuse by police to push them out. Ordinance 06-03 requires church services to be held in government-sanctioned buildings.

Tiaret Christians said they have continued meeting in small numbers for prayer. It was following one such gathering that police detained worshippers last Friday afternoon (May 9).

Saibi said the men had been poorly treated and were refused the chance to telephone their family members, a right guaranteed under Algerian law. In addition to threats from local police, he said that the public prosecutor insulted them the following day when they met with him to be charged.

"He asked us why we left [Islam], whether it was for money, and what price they paid for us," Saibi said.

New Law Questioned

Algeria has recently come under increasing international pressure to repeal the February 2006 law used to justify church closures and the arrest of Christians.

French Interior Minister Michel Alliot-Marie raised the situation of the country's Christians with officials during a visit to Algeria this month, daily el-Khabar reported.

"She inquired about the veracity of media reports saying Christians in Algeria are subject to persecution," Religious Affairs Minister Bu'Abdallah Ghoulamullah told the paper.

Ghoulamullah denied the reports, claiming that Christians and Muslims were treated equally under the law, according to the May 7 article.

"I've explained to the French minister that [just as] we do not allow to open a prayer rooms for Muslims in firms or houses, we, naturally, do the same with Christians."

Ghoulamullah did not publicly address the specific article in Ordinance 06-03 under which the six Christians in Tiaret were apparently charged last week.

Article 11 calls for up to five years imprisonment and a 1 million dinar (US$16,126) fine for anyone who attempts to convert a Muslim to another religion, or who "makes, stores or distributes" materials for this purpose.

Last week a Protestant woman charged with "practicing non-Muslim religious rites without license," had her May 7 hearing in Tiaret postponed until next Tuesday (May 20).

She was initially detained for 24 hours in March after police found six personal books on Christianity in her bag during a routine check on a public bus.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 19, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 19, 2008, 11:04:47 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 19, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Environmental Campaign Launches with Goal to be Biblical, Factual
    * Vietnam Officials Confiscate Home of Evangelist
    * Nationwide Prayer Campaign for Foster Care Starts Today
    * Churched High Schoolers Finding it Harder to Maintain Faith in College

Environmental Campaign Launches with Goal to be Biblical, Factual

Through a new "We Get It!" campaign, the Southern Baptist Convention's ethics entity is partnering with other organizations to demonstrate that evangelical Christians support what they describe as a more biblical, fact-based approach to global warming, Baptist Press reports. The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) was among the supporting organizations introduced at a May 15 news conference in Washington to unveil the campaign -- an effort to gain the endorsement of a million evangelicals to a brief document that espouses biblical responsibility for the environment and the poor. The effort, spearheaded by the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation, serves as a further response to the efforts of the Evangelical Climate Initiative. ECI contends that human beings are the primary cause of global warming, which it says will have the greatest impact on those in poverty. The declaration may be found online at www.wegetit.org.

Vietnam Officials Confiscate Home of Evangelist

Local officials in Lao Cai province have confiscated the land and home of a former opium addict because of his phenomenal success as an evangelist, local Christian sources said. Sua Yinh Siong of Lau Chai village had long been a desperate opium addict, leading to destitution for him and his family. In 2004, after becoming a Christian, Siong broke from his addiction and his animistic past, taking down paraphernalia for ancestor worship and other spirit-related articles and burning them. His joy over his liberation soon spread to others, and eventually more than 200 families also decided to follow Christ, Compass Direct News reports. Earlier this month, Siong told other Christian leaders that government harassment had reached a crisis point -- in April local and provincial officials had confiscated his land, citing "illegal religious activities." In the first few days of this month, Siong said, officials evicted him from his home and threatened to destroy it.

Nationwide Prayer Campaign for Foster Care Starts Today


The National Foster Care Prayer Vigil kicks off today, Monday, May 19, and continues through Sunday, May 25. There are vigils scheduled in at least 90 cities throughout the U.S. During the weeklong event, Christians will gather in cities across the nation to pray for the children and adults involved in the U.S. foster care system. Children come into the foster care system for various reasons, including neglect, abuse, abandonment and substance abuse by their primary caretakers. The ministries and churches involved recognize that not only do the children themselves need prayer, but so do the adults in their lives - their birth families, their foster families, their social workers and other child welfare professionals involved in the system. "Knowing that churches are praying for our workers, children and families gives me HOPE!" says Sharen Ford, Manager of the Permanency Unit for the Colorado Department of Human Services. "Every day workers make life and death decisions that impact the lives of children and their families. Our workers want to make the right decision at the right 'moment.'"

Churched High Schoolers Finding it Harder to Maintain Faith in College

ASSIST News Service reports that the faith disconnect that occurs when Christian high school students make the transition to college or career (Lifeway Research's survey from August 2007 shows the dropout rate at 70 percent) is not necessarily something that students plan. The problem is usually that students do not have a mature faith that they will continue to nurture when they are away from the influence of their parents. "There is a lot of relational decision making among that age group," says Jim Lundgren, InterVarsity's senior vice president and director of Collegiate Ministries. So that means the activities of peers, friends, and dorm-mates are usually the kinds of activities incoming freshmen end up getting involved with. "Researchers have found that there's not a whole lot of difference between lifestyles of Christians and non-Christians in that age group or in their actual operating beliefs," he added. The faith dropout rate is a challenge to InterVarsity and other campus ministries. But it's also a challenge to the church and its youth ministries, and every parent with teenagers. Responding directly to the challenge is a new coalition called the Youth Transition Network (YTN), which includes InterVarsity, plus many other Christian organizations and denominations. The goal of YTN is to help students make the transition to adulthood with the students' faith in God intact.

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Title: Burma's Neighbors Meet, Look for Ways to Overcome Aid Hurdles
Post by: nChrist on May 20, 2008, 03:49:20 PM
Burma's Neighbors Meet, Look for Ways to Overcome Aid Hurdles
Patrick Goodenough

(CNSNews.com) - More than two weeks after a massive cyclone hit Burma, foreign ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are finally meeting on Monday to discuss how they can help the country respond to the disaster.

The meeting in Singapore comes amid ongoing international frustration about the restrictions placed by Burma's military junta on outside aid efforts since the storm hit on May 3. The official death toll is nearly 78,000, with an estimated 56,000 people missing.

Western governments have accused the regime of exacerbating the crisis by limiting aid and blocking the entry of foreign disaster response experts. Humanitarian agencies warn that many more people - including tens of thousands of children - may yet die without food, medicine and shelter.

ASEAN, which groups the region's 10 countries, has taken flak from the West for years for its reluctance to tackle the junta over human rights violations and failure to restore civilian rule.

That reluctance is based on ASEAN's fundamental principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states. Burma joined the 40-year-old bloc in 1997.

Burmese foreign minister Nyan Win is attending the ASEAN meeting, and some of the regional governments have voiced hope that the junta may be more amenable to a substantial Asian-led relief effort than one carried out by Western nations that are among the general's harshest critics.

France's ambassador to the U.N., Jean-Maurice Ripert, warned Friday that the junta's stance on outside aid "could lead to a true crime against humanity."

American and French navy ships are in the area, ready to provide food, water, supplies and medical assistance to the worst-hit Irrawaddy River delta, but Burma has not given permission for them to do so.

After some delays, the government did approve U.S. aid flights into the country, and by the weekend, more than 20 C-130 flights had landed in Rangoon with emergency supplies.

However, a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Disaster Assistance Response Team continues to coordinating the effort from Thailand, having been denied approval to enter Burma, according to the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok.

Ahead of the meeting in Singapore, the Asian Human Rights Commission urged the ASEAN ministers to press the junta to open the doors to outside experts and relief workers and aid supplies, to ensure the provision of aid without discrimination or political considerations, and to allow independent monitoring of the aid effort.

Meanwhile, after having phone calls and written appeals to Burma's military rulers ignored for two weeks, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will on Wednesday be allowed to visit the country.

In another small shift, reclusive junta leader Than Shwe at the weekend made his first public appearance since the cyclone struck. State media showed him touring some of the affected areas near Rangoon, Burma's biggest city and former capital.

The cyclone is the worst natural disaster to hit the region since the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami that killed more than 220,000 people in a number of countries, with Indonesia hardest hit. On that occasion, the U.S. military played a key role in the relief efforts.

Burma's partners in ASEAN are Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Brunei.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 20, 2008, 03:51:33 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 20, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Iraq to Execute al Qaeda Leader in Murder of Bishop
    * Prestonwood Minister Arrested in Sex Sting
    * Willow Creek Undergoes 'Huge Shift' away from Seeker Sensitivity
    * Worker Wins Case against Charity Accused of Only Hiring Christians

Iraq to Execute al Qaeda Leader in Murder of Bishop

ASSIST News Service reports that a leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has been sentenced to death for the killing of Chaldean Catholic Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, whose murder in March drew worldwide condemnation. According to a Reuters story, the Iraqi Central Criminal Court imposed the death sentence on Ahmed Ali Ahmed. He is known as Abu Omar, Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said in a statement. Reuters reported that Rahho, the archbishop of the northern Iraqi city of Mosul, was abducted on Feb. 29 after gunmen attacked his car and killed his driver and two guards. His body was found in a shallow grave two weeks later. At the time, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki blamed al Qaeda and vowed to bring the bishop's killers to justice. Reuters said his Shi'ite Muslim-led government has been accused by members of Iraq's shrinking Christian minority of not doing enough to protect them from violent persecution.

Prestonwood Minister Arrested in Sex Sting

Baptist Press reports that a minister from Dallas-area Prestonwood Baptist Church has been arrested in a sting operation for soliciting sex with a minor. Joe Barron, 52, a minister to married adults, was arrested May 15 in Bryan, Texas. Barron had made a three-hour drive to Bryan to have sex with a girl he thought was 13 but, instead, was a police officer he had been chatting with online in a sting operation. Prestonwood's pastor, Jack Graham, said in comments to the congregation May 18, "Our church has experienced a heartbreaking and tragic week. We are appalled by the disgraceful actions and subsequent arrest of one of our ministers. I am so sorry for the injury this grievous situation has caused. We have requested and received the resignation of Joe Barron effective immediately. He is no longer a member of the Prestonwood staff." Graham said. "We work very hard to earn your trust and maintain the testimony of our congregation in the community. You can be sure we always make every effort to provide a staff of godly integrity and devotion. I am confident that our ministers are of the highest character and are faithfully fulfilling their calling with accountability." Barron had been on Prestonwood's staff for 18 months.

Willow Creek Undergoes 'Huge Shift' away from Seeker Sensitivity

According to a Christianity Today story, Willow Creek Community Church, after modeling a seeker-sensitive approach to church growth for three decades, now plans to gear its services toward mature believers seeking to grow in their faith. Since 1975, Willow Creek has avoided conventional church approaches, attempting to reach the unchurched through polished music, multimedia, and sermons referencing popular culture. Last summer, executive pastor Greg Hawkins co-authored a book titled, Reveal: Where Are You?, which detailed much of Willow Creek's four-year research effort into whether the church's model had been effective or not. Hawkins declined CT's interview request, and senior pastor Bill Hybels was unavailable for comment. Greg Pritchard, author of Willow Creek Seeker Services, told CT the church "sporadically has recognized it was not teaching a robust enough biblical theology and needed to turn the ship around. It is a huge shift."

Worker Wins Case against Charity Accused of Only Hiring Christians

ASSIST News Service reports that a manager who resigned from a British charity in protest about its new alleged "Christian-only" recruitment policy has won a discrimination case he filed against the group. According to a BBC News report, Mark Sheridan, 56, a self-described "former Christian" from Conwy, North Wales left Prospects, after eight years of employment, in Jan. 2006. The charity works with adults with learning disabilities. The BBC reported Sheridan said, "I am really very pleased with this result. When I worked for Prospects, I felt that what they were doing was wrong. Winning this case now justifies my claim." The BBC said that Prospects declined to comment. The BBC reported Sheridan told the employment tribunal that workers were expected to promote a Christian philosophy. Sheridan resigned twice in four months, the BBC report said, withdrawing his resignation the first time before finally resigning in Jan. 2006. But the tribunal in Conwy heard he did not mention his reasons for leaving in his resignation letter.

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Title: Christians Grapple With Opportunities Offered by Olympics
Post by: nChrist on May 22, 2008, 02:09:04 AM
Christians Grapple With Opportunities Offered by Olympics
Patrick Goodenough


(CNSNews.com) - Many Christians view the Beijing Olympics as an unprecedented opportunity for outreach in a country whose communist authorities still tightly restrict religious freedom. But a prominent American evangelist's warning about illegal activity has exposed differences over how the sensitive issue should be tackled.

Visiting China earlier this month, the Rev. Franklin Graham preached to some 12,000 people at what was reportedly the biggest gathering ever held at China's largest church.

According to the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association -- an organization founded by the Rev. Billy Graham and now run by son Franklin -- around 1,250 people attending the service at the Chong-Yi Church in Hangzhou responded to an invitation to become followers of Jesus Christ.

Senior pastor Joseph Gu was quoted as saying those who responded had been given Bibles and would be offered an eight-week course in the basics of the Christian faith.

During his visit, Graham also spoke at the Nanjing Union Theological Seminary, where he described the students as "full of life and eager to spread the Gospel."

Graham said afterwards that China was "much more open to the Gospel" than he had anticipated. Having been able to preach openly gave him "great hope for religious expression in China."

Yet despite the reported achievements, Graham's visit attracted controversy after he was quoted as telling reporters in Beijing that he would not support "illegal" missionary activity during the Olympics. The comment has drawn sharp responses from some Christian campaigners for religious freedom.

The sparring over Olympic evangelism is part of a debate that has simmered for years about how Christians should approach China: Millions of Chinese are members of state-sanctioned "patriotic" Protestant and Catholic organizations, but many more practice their faith outside the authorized structures. Some 50 million Bibles have been printed with government approval, but some campaigners argue that far more are needed, along with study guides and other literature.

Both the Chong-Yi Church and the Nanjing seminary visited by Graham belong to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM), a body established by the government in 1950 to manage Protestant Christianity. (The three "selfs" are the goals of "self-governance, self-support and self-propagation," intended to highlight a shunning of foreign influences.)

The TPSM claims a membership of around 18 million (a parallel "patriotic" Catholic association - loyal to Beijing, not to Rome - claims another five million.) But some Christian organizations working in China estimate that possibly as many as 100 million believers worship in illegal "house churches," whose pastors and members are frequently subjected to harassment and arrest.

'Flood China with Bibles'

Bob Fu of the Texas-based China Aid Association, which campaigns on behalf of house-church believers, called Graham's comments on the Olympics inappropriate and offensive to hundreds of imprisoned house-church members and their families.

Fu, who as a house-church pastor himself faced detention and harassment before he and his wife moved as refugees to the U.S. in 1996, said in a statement Chinese Christians would not abide by a "faith moratorium" to please the government during the Olympics.

Chinese law was "unjust" in that it demanded that Christians to go against Jesus' "great commission" instruction to his disciples to spread the good news.

A number of Christian organizations hope to use the Olympics as an active opportunity for evangelism.

Open Doors U.S.A. is offering anyone planning to visit China over that period evangelical material specially designed for use during the event.

"We feel like evangelism during the Olympic Games will be a tremendous opportunity," Open Doors President Carl Moeller told Mission Network News. "The Gospel has always been preached in places where governments did not want it preached."

In its reaction to Graham's remarks, a Wisconsin-based Christian ministry focusing on track and field athletes, 4 Winds, said it believed that Christians should witness during the Olympics.

"Christians should use caution and do as God leads," said the group's president, Steve McConkey, a former U.S.A. National Track and Field Club Coach.
========================


Title: Christians Grapple With Opportunities Offered by Olympics
Post by: nChrist on May 22, 2008, 02:11:15 AM
Christians Grapple With Opportunities Offered by Olympics
Patrick Goodenough

Athletes selected for the games should concentrate on their performances, he said, but afterwards, "win or lose, athletes are encouraged to share their faith through the media as they normally do every year."

The organization says it has also been collecting testimonies of faith from athletes who are Olympic hopefuls, for the underground church in China to use.

Christian Freedom International president Jim Jacobson said his organization has smuggled many Bibles into China over the years, and that he was himself blacklisted after being caught in Beijing with a load of Bibles.

"Our coworkers on the front lines tell us now is the time to flood China with Bibles," he said. "This would send a powerful message to China's leaders that the Word of God cannot be suppressed despite their best efforts."

John Whitehead, president of The Rutherford Institute, a conservative civil liberties organization, had strong words for Graham, saying his comments "compromise the Christian faith."

"The activities of Christ were considered illegal, but that didn't stop Him," he said. "Jesus could have avoided the cross, but God's Word was too important to compromise. The activities of Paul were considered illegal, but he refused to be put off. He suffered beatings and spent much time in jail because he saw the Gospel of Christ as too important to be silenced. And the Apostle Peter was very clear that we should obey God, rather than men."

Whitehead said that any law restricting the Gospel is void and of no effect. He expressed concern that statements like Graham's may "actually give the Chinese government the impetus to continue its persecution of Chinese Christians."

"Until evangelical Christians decide that the faith should be proclaimed loudly and boldly with compassion, no matter where they may be, the moral morass of the world will only get worse," he said.

Invited to elaborate on Graham's comments in Beijing, his media office provided a statement in which the evangelist said that he supported "Christian groups that want to do ministry in China during the Olympics."

"However, I believe we must be sensitive to and respectful of the local church and the impact we as outsiders could have on them. We are guests in China and anything we do or say has a lasting effect on Chinese Christians that will be there long after the Olympics when we are gone," Graham said.

"If we intentionally or inadvertently engage in any illegal activity we could jeopardize the well being of these Christians and the church in China."

'Country of concern'

Differences among Western Christians over China are not new. In 2005, U.S. evangelist Luis Palau during a visit caused a stir by giving an optimistic assessment of the religious freedom situation and suggesting that underground Christians should register with the state-sanctioned church bodies. He later relented.

Christian organizations also disagree over the need to take Bibles into China from outside.

The Chinese government claims that under new regulations introduced in 2005 religious freedom is upheld and religious activities take place "free from interference."

Yet Open Doors this year put China at No. 10 on its annual watch list of countries most hostile to Christians, up from No. 12 in 2007.

China also is one of eight nations blacklisted by the U.S. State Department as "countries of particular concern" for serious religious freedom violations. (The others are Burma, North Korea, Iran, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan and Eritrea.)

In its most recent annual report on international religious freedom, the State Department said China's "respect for freedom of religion remained poor, especially for religious groups and spiritual movements that are not registered with the government." Those facing crackdowns, it says, include unauthorized Protestants and Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims and adherents of the Falun Gong meditation movement, which Beijing regards as a cult.

An international group of religious freedom organizations meeting in Zurich earlier this year issued a statement that acknowledged "t he advances in religious freedom in China during the past four decades."

At the same time, the Religious Liberty Partnership called on Christians worldwide "to respond to the call of Chinese church leaders for prayer for full freedom to manifest their faith in China, the release of unjustly imprisoned Chinese Christians, and an end to discrimination and persecution of religious believers.""
_______________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 21, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 22, 2008, 02:13:41 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 21, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Mourning Period Declared for Cyclone Victims; Hopes Rise for Open Door
    * 'Disaster Fatigue' Leads to Drop in Giving
    * Assault on Religious Freedom Seen in Michigan Contraception Mandate
    * Rescue of Girls in Nigeria Ignites Islamic Rampage

Mourning Period Declared for Cyclone Victims; Hopes Rise for Open Door

Mission Network News reports that Myanmar has declared a three-day mourning period starting Monday for its cyclone victims. Fearing starvation and disease, the government has now tentatively agreed to accept aid from other Southeast Asian nations. Some reports indicate Myanmar is even seeking medics. Global Aid Network (GAiN-USA)'s Charles Debter says, "We are working with Burmese locals who are medical professionals, who are able to go in. And yet we are working with officials in the country with the Ministry of Health to gain permission--and that's a prayer request, that that might come about." To meet the immediate physical emergency, Debter says GAiN-USA sent six truckloads of food and water filters into the country for distribution. "By training the local believers to reach out with care, we are able to demonstrate the love of God through providing tangible help and spiritual hope among those that survived."

'Disaster Fatigue' Leads to Drop in Giving


The Christian Post reports that a condition charities know as "donor fatigue" - but which might be more accurately described as disaster fatigue -- is one reason Americans have contributed relatively little so far to victims of the Myanmar cyclone and China's earthquake. Even sympathetic souls often turn away as death tolls continue to rise and situations grow dire. When tragedy seems never-ending, givers may become overwhelmed. "Hearing about too many disasters makes some people not give at all, when they would have if it had been just one disaster," says Michal Ann Strahilevitz, who teaches marketing at Golden Gate University. Compared with the Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, China and Myanmar have generated just a trickle of aid. However, other factors, including a lack of sympathy for the repressive governments involved, doubts about whether aid will get through, and an inclination to save money because of shaky economic times, may also drive down American contributions.

Assault on Religious Freedom Seen in Michigan Contraception Mandate

Proposed legislation in Michigan that would require employers who provide prescription drug coverage to pay for contraception is "a direct assault upon the religious freedom rights" of Catholic and other religious employers, said Paul A. Long, vice president for public policy of the Michigan Catholic Conference, Catholic News Service reports. Long testified May 14 before the state Senate Health Policy Committee about Senate Bills 41 and 42. "This legislation would impose a mandate upon Catholic religious institutions to provide contraceptive insurance coverage, coercing essential ministries of the Catholic Church under the color of law to act contrary to one of the church's most profound religious teachings on matters of morality and social justice," Long said. "If this legislation were to pass, it is difficult to imagine any limit upon the state's ability to require religious institutions to violate the principal tenets of their religious beliefs," he added.

Rescue of Girls in Nigeria Ignites Islamic Rampage

Compass Direct News reports that Islamists under the auspices of a paramilitary force last week destroyed six churches to protest a police rescue of two teenage Christian girls kidnapped by Muslims in Bauchi state. Police recovered the two Christian girls, Mary Chikwodi Okoye, 15, and Uche Edward, 14, on May 12 after Muslims in Ningi kidnapped them three weeks ago in an attempt to expand Islam by marrying them to Muslim men. Police took the two girls, who had been under foster care, to safety in southeastern Nigeria where their biological parents live. Following the rescue of the girls, Muslims under the Hisbah Command, a paramilitary arm of Kano state's Sharia Commission, went on a rampage on Tuesday, May 13, attacking Christians and setting fire to the churches. Joseph Abdu, pastor of the Deeper Life church, told Compass that damages to his church property amounted to about 13 million naira (US$112,857) -- and that his congregation had shrunk to 40 people from the 130 who attended before the attack.

_______________________________


Title: Iraq: Church Opposes Executing Alleged Killer of Bishop
Post by: nChrist on May 22, 2008, 10:38:38 AM
Iraq: Church Opposes Executing Alleged Killer of Bishop
Compass Direct News

May 22, 2008

Government says al-Qaeda in Iraq leader behind Mosul clergyman's death.

ISTANBUL -- Iraqi church leaders have spoken out against the death sentence given to the alleged murderer of a Chaldean bishop kidnapped in northern Iraq in March.

The Iraqi Central Criminal Court sentenced al-Qaeda in Iraq member Ahmed Ali Ahmed for killing Mosul's Chaldean archbishop, a government spokesperson said on Sunday (May 18 ).

Archbishop Paulus Faraj Rahho's corpse was found in a shallow grave in Mosul on March 13 after gunmen snatched him from his car two weeks prior near the city's Holy Spirit parish.

Speaking from Baghdad, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni said that Ahmed should be punished for his crime but that executing him would be pointless.

"If somebody is killed I think there is no use in it for the Iraqi people," the Chaldean church leader said. "Our principles are love and pardon and reconciliation."

Chaldean Archbishop of Kirkuk Louis Sako openly condemned the sentence.

"We are not satisfied with this decision, because the church is against the death penalty," he told Agence France-Presse yesterday.

Government spokesperson Ali al-Dabbagh said Sunday that Ahmed, also known as Abu Omar, was wanted for a number "terror crimes against the people of Iraq," Reuters reported. Al-Dabbagh did not reveal the date of the execution.

Details surrounding Archbishop Rahho's death remain uncertain, church leaders said. "All that we know is from television," Warduni told Compass today. "We heard that they have captured somebody who has killed [Rahho]. But first of all, Rahho was not killed."

Morgue officials reported that Rahho's body showed no signs of being shot, according to both Iraqi Christian leaders and The Associated Press. The autopsy showed that the Christian leader had died between five and seven days prior to the discovery of his body on March 13.

Rahho, 65, had been taking a number of medications for a heart condition but did not have them with him when he was kidnapped. In the wake of the archbishop's death, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki had publicly vowed to find Rahho's kidnappers.

Christian leaders told Compass that the abduction appeared to be a deliberate attempt to drive Christians out of Mosul rather than a bid for financial gain. During negotiations for the archbishop's release, the kidnappers made extravagant demands for arms support from the Vatican while increasing the ransom to $3 million.

More than a dozen Christian clergymen in Iraq have been killed or kidnapped and held for ransom since July 2006. Dozens of churches have been bombed.

In an attempt to provide protection for Christian places of worship, government officials have begun recruiting Christians in the city of Mosul to serve as guards, Iraqi Christian website Ankawa.com reported on April 30.

Speaking from Baghdad today, Warduni called on Christians around the world to unite in prayer for all Iraqis, as well as for Rahho's alleged killer.

"We should be praying for Ahmed Ali, our gospel says that, the Lord says that," he said.
________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 22, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 22, 2008, 10:41:11 AM
Religion Today Summaries - May 22, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Appeals Court Offers Hope to Calif. Homeschoolers
    * Divided Anglicans Try Conversation Over Legislation
    * Iran: Police Arrest 12 Converts in Crackdown
    * Food Price Crisis Threatens Relief for the Poor


Appeals Court Offers Hope to Calif. Homeschoolers

Christian Newswire reports that the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), the nation's top conservative public interest law firm, is leading a diverse team of organizations to urge the California Court of Appeals to protect the rights of homeschooling families. The appeals court has agreed to rehear a February case in which the Court found that compulsory attendance laws allows only "private tutors" to educate, barring many parents because they do not hold valid state teaching certificates for every grade.The ACLJ, along with its affiliates, have filed an amicus briefing arguing that the parental right to homeschool flows from the Free Speech and Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment, thereby allowing homeschooling under both private school and private tutor exemptions.

Divided Anglicans Try Conversation Over Legislation Christian Post

This summer, the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference of Anglican church leaders is ditching legislation for more "conversation" between members, according to the Christian Post. "The focus at this Lambeth that removes the emphasis on parliamentary procedure and legislation really brings us back to the heart of what it means to be a Christian community," said Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of The Episcopal Church in the United States, Tuesday. Amid church divisions, Archbishop of Canterbury Dr. Rowan Willaims, the Anglican spiritual leaders, plans to focus the conference on Bible study, conversations and equipping bishops to be "better" bishops. Some suspect this plan will mean skirting controversial issues, such as homosexual ordination, that have threatened to cause a schism for years. But the Rev. Dr. Ian Douglas, a member of the conference design group, said the bishops will engage in "purposeful conversations" concerning biblical authority and human sexuality among other topics. No voting or final decisions, however, will be made at the conference.

Iran: Police Arrest 12 Converts in Crackdown

Compass Direct News reports that police in the southern Iran city of Shiraz cracked down against known Muslim converts to Christianity, arresting members of three Christian families and confiscating their books and computers. Two couples were arrested on May 11. All four were subjected to hours of interrogation, questioning them solely "just about their faith and house church activities," an Iranian source told Compass.The detained Christians were identified as Homayon Shokohie Gholamzadeh, 48, and his wife Fariba Nazemiyan Pur, 40; and Amir Hussein Bab Anari, 25, and his wife Fatemeh Shenasa, 25. Although three have been released, Gholamzadeh remains jailed. That same day police authorities also invaded the home of Hamid Allaedin Hussein, 58, arresting him and his three adult children. Over the past two years, Iran's harsh Shiite Muslim regime has stepped up its efforts against mushrooming house church movements, routinely subjecting converts from Islam to both physical and psychological mistreatment.

Food Price Crisis Threatens Relief for the Poor

The current global food crisis, dubbed by some as the "silent tsunami," has some relief angecies worrying that they will have to turn away those desperate for help, the Christian Post reports. In late April, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) warned that "the steep and persistent rise in international food prices is hitting particularly hard on the poorest in Latin America and the Caribbean." In Haiti, "Hunger continues to grow and the people are becoming increasingly desperate," said Angel Aloma, executive director of Food for the Poor, one of the largest relief organizations in Haiti. "Last year we sent an average of 880,000 pounds of rice to Haiti every month... This year, we're sending 1,763,000 pounds and it is a real challenge to keep up with the increased demand," he said. The food crisis as even led to violence and protests that left at least six people dead. WorldVision and the Salvation Army have reported similar problems of lower donations and increased need.

______________________________


Title: China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Post by: nChrist on May 23, 2008, 10:07:48 PM
China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Compass Direct News


May 23, 2008

International spotlight is proving uncomfortably hot.

DUBLIN  -- When the International Olympic Committee in July 2001 awarded China the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese citizens were ecstatic. But what potentially could have been China's proudest moment has turned into something of a public relations minefield as world media probe China's human rights gains and abuses.

Among key issues raised is religious freedom, with China watchers reporting ongoing restrictions on freedom of worship, particularly for unregistered church groups, arrests, detention in labor camps and confiscation of Christian literature.

Hosting the Olympic Games provides China with a unique opportunity to showcase its stunning economic development. But with an estimated half a million foreign visitors expected and over 20,000 journalists, the government fears it will also be a prime opportunity for dissidents and human rights activists to present their cause to the world media.

As Liu Junning of the China Cultural Research Institute pointed out recently, "Chinese leaders want the country ... put in the limelight. But the light is very hot."

Chinese citizens can now choose their own careers, travel abroad, own a car and establish a business. But Christians cannot legally hold a prayer meeting in a private home, share a church service with foreign Christians or interact with foreign Christian organizations. China still bans religious education for children under the age of 18 and limits the publication of Bibles and other religious materials.

Many Chinese Christians see little good coming from the Olympics in the way of religious liberty. Some point to a government crackdown on unregistered house churches over the past year, as evidenced in a 2007 report issued in February by the China Aid Association (CAA), and an unprecedented expulsion of foreign missionaries in 2007 as part of a "clean-up" in preparation for the Games.

Others fear religious persecution will increase after the Games as the world's media moves on from China.

The government has stepped up an official campaign against human rights activists and lawyers in recent months -- and increased its suppression of religious believers, particularly members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups.

Protestant Crackdown

State security officials summoned house church leader Lou Yuanqi of Huocheng County in Xinjiang for questioning last Friday (May 16) and detained him for "inciting separatism," according to CAA. That was only the latest in a series of raids and detentions.

On January 23, police raided and severely beat members of a house church in Yunnan province, CAA reported. The raid occurred after two church members, Chen Xiqiong and Liang Guihua, visited the Xishan District's Public Security Bureau office to request an account of items, including Bibles, which had been taken from the church and burned by police in December.

Also in December, authorities in Shandong arrested 270 house church leaders who had gathered for training in Linyi city. According to CAA, officials released 249 of the leaders but sentenced 21 senior leaders to between one and three years of detention in labor camp.

Another three house church leaders were detained in Shandong on May 8. Police arrested 46 Christians at a house church meeting in Kashgar, Xinjiang province on April 13. They released 44 Christians after ordering them to confess their illegal Sunday worship activities and study a government handbook on religious policy. Two other Christians, Ding Zhichun and Ma Wenxiu, were sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

CAA also said officials had launched an "Anti-illegal Christian Activities Campaign" in Xinjiang. Authorities have arrested at least three Uyghur house church Christians in recent months. Police arrested Alimjan Yimit (or Ahlimujiang Yimiti in Chinese) on January 12 and accused him of endangering national security.

Officials had previously closed Alimjan's business in September and accused him of using it as a cover for "preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity." His trial has now been rescheduled for Monday (May 26), according to Compass sources.

Osman Imin (Wusiman Yaming in Chinese) was arrested on November 19, 2007, accused of "leaking state secrets" and sentenced to two years of labor camp. Compass has confirmed that a female believer arrested earlier this year also remains in detention in Xinjiang. (See Compass Direct News, "China: Trial Delayed for Uyghur Christian," May 13.)

The worse may be yet to come; CAA sources are predicting a severe crackdown on all unregistered house churches beginning on June 1.
=================================


Title: China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Post by: nChrist on May 23, 2008, 10:09:48 PM
China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Compass Direct News

Catholic Restrictions

Authorities are also restricting Catholic activity, closely guarding bishops in the official Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and keeping underground bishops in forced isolation. Several Catholic priests remain in detention in labor camps.

In February, Yie Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said he hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would visit China during the Games. In March, however, he lashed out against an alleged "power grab" from the Vatican council and accused it of being "double-faced" in seeking diplomatic relations with Beijing.

China has consistently denied the absolute authority of the Pope over Roman Catholicism, appointing its own bishops and encouraging Chinese Catholics to maintain greater loyalty to the Chinese government.

The country officially recognizes five religions -- Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. An official patriotic association for each religion controls adherents' activities and governs the appointment of clergy.

Officially there are 16 million Protestant believers and 5 million Catholics, but these figures exclude members of unregistered churches. Compass sources estimate there are 60 million additional Christians: 10 million in major house church networks, 35 million in independent rural house churches and 15 million in independent house churches.

Oddly, last year Yie of Religious Affairs said in two internal meetings in Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Science that the total number of Christians in China had reached 130 million, according to CAA.

Appealing for Greater Liberty

In late March, the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), a coalition of several groups working for global religious liberty, issued a statement encouraging Christians around the world to pray for the Chinese church in the lead-up to the Olympics.

The statement acknowledged advances in religious freedom in China over the past 40 years but called on the Chinese government to honor its recent declaration that believers have an important role to play in the development of society. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the national committee of the National People's Congress, had said in early March that the state "should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion."

He also said the Chinese government should guide religious leaders and believers to make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony.

"We hope and pray this [government declaration] will translate into the removal of remaining obstacles to the full expression of faith and an end to serious violations of religious freedom," the RLP said in its statement.

Meeting Religious Needs of Foreign Visitors

Religious freedom may be tightening for Chinese Christians, but authorities hope to accommodate the spiritual needs of visitors to the Olympic Games.

For starters, Beijing officials have asked local believers to provide religious services for foreigners attending the Games, according to a Reuters report on March 5.

In response, Chen Guangyuan, president of the Islamic Association of China, said his association was training volunteers to hold English and Arabic prayer services for visiting Muslims.

Fu Xianwei, president of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of Protestant Churches, and Liu Bainian, vice-chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, both told media that they were providing language training for official religious services during the Games.

The Beijing Olympic Committee responded positively to Liu's suggestion that Bibles be placed in Beijing hotel rooms for the religious needs of foreign visitors, according to a report in the China Daily on March 10.

Amid reports of Chinese authorities confiscating Christian literature ahead of the Games, Luis Palau, a prominent Christian evangelist, has encouraged Christian visitors to bring Bibles to the Olympics.

"Any person can go in there and take Bibles, as long as they're not selling them," Palau told The Christian Post.

His suggestion, however, directly contradicted a November 2007 edict, when the Chinese government included the Bible on a list of items banned from the Olympic Village and warned visitors not to bring more than a single Bible with them on their visit to China.
______________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 23, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 23, 2008, 10:13:07 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 23, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Kenya Mob Burns 15 Women to Death over Witchcraft
    * Pakistani Christian Flees Home after Blasphemy Accusation
    * China Says Quake Death Toll More than 51,000
    * Christian 'Bullied' for Refusing to Marry Gays


Kenya Mob Burns 15 Women to Death over Witchcraft

A mob of about 100 people in western Kenya burned alive15 women accused of witchcraft on Wednesday, the AFP reports. The mob also torched about 50 houses in the local village of Nyakeo. "I can't believe my wife of many years would be killed so brutally by people who cannot prove their case even before God," said Enoch Obiero, a pastor. Kenyan officials have vowed to "hunt the suspects down," but this is just one of many incidents of vigilante and mob violence in Kenya's "sorcery belt." Dozens of suspected people were killed in western Kenya in the 1990s, amid allegations of sorcery. Several cases were also reported in recent months in neighboring Tanzania, forcing President Jakaya Kikwete to order special protection for albino, who were being murdered and mutilated for good luck by with-doctors.

Pakistani Christian Flees Home after Blasphemy Accusation

ASSIST News Service reports that a Pakistani Christian armament factory worker has fled his home after his Muslim co-workers accused him of blasphemy. "His Muslim co-workers accused him of committing blasphemy when he asked them to stop criticizing his religion," said Nazim, a Christian resident of the area. As the word of his alleged blasphemy spread out, hundreds of Muslim factory workers gathered in the factory but Danish escaped as the managing director of the factory calmed down the charged workers, he said. Some reports suggest that blasphemy accusation was slapped on Danish after his Muslim co-workers failed to convert him to Islam. Christian parliamentarian and Chairman of All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA) has expressed his grave concern over registration of fake blasphemy cases.

China Says Quake Death Toll More than 51,000

The Associated Press reports that the toll of dead and missing from last week's catastrophic earthquake in China rose to more than 80,000 yesterday, with the number of confirmed dead jumping to 51,151. At least 300,000 were injured, and more than 5 million were left homeless. "We hope and welcome international assistance in this regard. We hope the international community can give priority in providing tents," cabinet spokesman Guo Weimin said in a news conference. In addition to the dead and missing, China also estimates that more than 4,000 children were orphaned by the quake. The government has received hundreds calls from people wanting to adopt them.

Christian 'Bullied' for Refusing to Marry Gays

The Daily Express reports that a London registrar was threatened with dismissal for gross misconduct after she asked to be excused from conducting civil partnerships for gay men and women. "I felt harassed and victimized," Lillian Ladele, 47, told an employment tribunal on Wednesday. "I was being picked on on a daily basis. There was no respect whatsoever for my religious beliefs." Ladele said she is being forced to choose between her Christian beliefs and her £31,000-a-year job at Islington Council in north London which she has held for nearly 16 years. "I cannot reconcile my faith with taking an active part in enabling same-sex unions to be formed," she said. Ladele, who is claiming discrimination or victimization on grounds of religion or belief, said 10 other registrars could conduct the ceremonies.
______________________


Title: China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Post by: nChrist on May 26, 2008, 11:56:59 AM
China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Compass Direct News


May 23, 2008

International spotlight is proving uncomfortably hot.

DUBLIN  -- When the International Olympic Committee in July 2001 awarded China the right to host the 2008 Summer Olympics, Chinese citizens were ecstatic. But what potentially could have been China's proudest moment has turned into something of a public relations minefield as world media probe China's human rights gains and abuses.

Among key issues raised is religious freedom, with China watchers reporting ongoing restrictions on freedom of worship, particularly for unregistered church groups, arrests, detention in labor camps and confiscation of Christian literature.

Hosting the Olympic Games provides China with a unique opportunity to showcase its stunning economic development. But with an estimated half a million foreign visitors expected and over 20,000 journalists, the government fears it will also be a prime opportunity for dissidents and human rights activists to present their cause to the world media.

As Liu Junning of the China Cultural Research Institute pointed out recently, "Chinese leaders want the country ... put in the limelight. But the light is very hot."

Chinese citizens can now choose their own careers, travel abroad, own a car and establish a business. But Christians cannot legally hold a prayer meeting in a private home, share a church service with foreign Christians or interact with foreign Christian organizations. China still bans religious education for children under the age of 18 and limits the publication of Bibles and other religious materials.

Many Chinese Christians see little good coming from the Olympics in the way of religious liberty. Some point to a government crackdown on unregistered house churches over the past year, as evidenced in a 2007 report issued in February by the China Aid Association (CAA), and an unprecedented expulsion of foreign missionaries in 2007 as part of a "clean-up" in preparation for the Games.

Others fear religious persecution will increase after the Games as the world's media moves on from China.

The government has stepped up an official campaign against human rights activists and lawyers in recent months -- and increased its suppression of religious believers, particularly members of unregistered Protestant and Catholic groups.

Protestant Crackdown


State security officials summoned house church leader Lou Yuanqi of Huocheng County in Xinjiang for questioning last Friday (May 16) and detained him for "inciting separatism," according to CAA. That was only the latest in a series of raids and detentions.

On January 23, police raided and severely beat members of a house church in Yunnan province, CAA reported. The raid occurred after two church members, Chen Xiqiong and Liang Guihua, visited the Xishan District's Public Security Bureau office to request an account of items, including Bibles, which had been taken from the church and burned by police in December.

Also in December, authorities in Shandong arrested 270 house church leaders who had gathered for training in Linyi city. According to CAA, officials released 249 of the leaders but sentenced 21 senior leaders to between one and three years of detention in labor camp.

Another three house church leaders were detained in Shandong on May 8. Police arrested 46 Christians at a house church meeting in Kashgar, Xinjiang province on April 13. They released 44 Christians after ordering them to confess their illegal Sunday worship activities and study a government handbook on religious policy. Two other Christians, Ding Zhichun and Ma Wenxiu, were sentenced to 15 days of administrative detention.

CAA also said officials had launched an "Anti-illegal Christian Activities Campaign" in Xinjiang. Authorities have arrested at least three Uyghur house church Christians in recent months. Police arrested Alimjan Yimit (or Ahlimujiang Yimiti in Chinese) on January 12 and accused him of endangering national security.

Officials had previously closed Alimjan's business in September and accused him of using it as a cover for "preaching Christianity among people of Uyghur ethnicity." His trial has now been rescheduled for Monday (May 26), according to Compass sources.

Osman Imin (Wusiman Yaming in Chinese) was arrested on November 19, 2007, accused of "leaking state secrets" and sentenced to two years of labor camp. Compass has confirmed that a female believer arrested earlier this year also remains in detention in Xinjiang. (See Compass Direct News, "China: Trial Delayed for Uyghur Christian," May 13.)

The worse may be yet to come; CAA sources are predicting a severe crackdown on all unregistered house churches beginning on June 1.
_______________________________


Title: China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Post by: nChrist on May 26, 2008, 11:59:04 AM
China: Olympic Glare Exposes Religious Freedom Issues
Compass Direct News

Catholic Restrictions

Authorities are also restricting Catholic activity, closely guarding bishops in the official Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and keeping underground bishops in forced isolation. Several Catholic priests remain in detention in labor camps.

In February, Yie Xiaowen, director of the State Administration of Religious Affairs, said he hoped that Pope Benedict XVI would visit China during the Games. In March, however, he lashed out against an alleged "power grab" from the Vatican council and accused it of being "double-faced" in seeking diplomatic relations with Beijing.

China has consistently denied the absolute authority of the Pope over Roman Catholicism, appointing its own bishops and encouraging Chinese Catholics to maintain greater loyalty to the Chinese government.

The country officially recognizes five religions -- Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. An official patriotic association for each religion controls adherents' activities and governs the appointment of clergy.

Officially there are 16 million Protestant believers and 5 million Catholics, but these figures exclude members of unregistered churches. Compass sources estimate there are 60 million additional Christians: 10 million in major house church networks, 35 million in independent rural house churches and 15 million in independent house churches.

Oddly, last year Yie of Religious Affairs said in two internal meetings in Beijing University and the Chinese Academy of Social Science that the total number of Christians in China had reached 130 million, according to CAA.

Appealing for Greater Liberty

In late March, the Religious Liberty Partnership (RLP), a coalition of several groups working for global religious liberty, issued a statement encouraging Christians around the world to pray for the Chinese church in the lead-up to the Olympics.

The statement acknowledged advances in religious freedom in China over the past 40 years but called on the Chinese government to honor its recent declaration that believers have an important role to play in the development of society. Jia Qinglin, chairman of the national committee of the National People's Congress, had said in early March that the state "should fully follow the policy on freedom of religious belief, implement the regulations on religious affairs, and conduct thorough research on important and difficult issues related to religion."

He also said the Chinese government should guide religious leaders and believers to make full use of their positive role in promoting social harmony.

"We hope and pray this [government declaration] will translate into the removal of remaining obstacles to the full expression of faith and an end to serious violations of religious freedom," the RLP said in its statement.

Meeting Religious Needs of Foreign Visitors

Religious freedom may be tightening for Chinese Christians, but authorities hope to accommodate the spiritual needs of visitors to the Olympic Games.

For starters, Beijing officials have asked local believers to provide religious services for foreigners attending the Games, according to a Reuters report on March 5.

In response, Chen Guangyuan, president of the Islamic Association of China, said his association was training volunteers to hold English and Arabic prayer services for visiting Muslims.

Fu Xianwei, president of the official Three-Self Patriotic Movement Committee of Protestant Churches, and Liu Bainian, vice-chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, both told media that they were providing language training for official religious services during the Games.

The Beijing Olympic Committee responded positively to Liu's suggestion that Bibles be placed in Beijing hotel rooms for the religious needs of foreign visitors, according to a report in the China Daily on March 10.

Amid reports of Chinese authorities confiscating Christian literature ahead of the Games, Luis Palau, a prominent Christian evangelist, has encouraged Christian visitors to bring Bibles to the Olympics.

"Any person can go in there and take Bibles, as long as they're not selling them," Palau told The Christian Post.

His suggestion, however, directly contradicted a November 2007 edict, when the Chinese government included the Bible on a list of items banned from the Olympic Village and warned visitors not to bring more than a single Bible with them on their visit to China.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 26, 2008, 12:01:26 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Burma to Accept 'All' Aid Workers to Help Cyclone Survivors
    * Algeria: Court Pressures Woman to Renounce Christ
    * Survey: 16 Percent of Science Teachers are Creationists
    * Protestors in Germany Harass 15,000 Strong Christian Youth Festival


Burma to Accept 'All' Aid Workers to Help Cyclone Survivors


After weeks of refusing access to foreign relief experts, the junta in Burma finally agreed to allow badly needed aid for cyclone victims into the country, according to FOX News. The agreement comes after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Burma's effective ruler, Senior Gen Than Shwe, on Friday. Ban said the government also agreed to let in aid "via civilian ships and small boats," suggesting that foreign military ships may not be allowed to dock. Questions remain as to when the agreement will take effect, but a senior U.N. official present at the meeting said Than Shwe gave a "green light" for areas that were previously untouchable to workers, such as the hardest-hit region of the Irrawaddy Delta. International aid agencies now stand poised to act as soon as they find out the "practical details" of the country's new commitment. "This is a significant step forward, and could be a turning point in the aid response," said Brian Agland, who heads the U.S.-based aid group CARE in Burma.

Algeria: Court Pressures Woman to Renounce Christ

Compass Direct News reports that an Algerian public prosecutor has demanded a three-year sentence for a convert to Christianity in western Algeria for practicing her faith "without license." Habiba Kouider, 35, was plucked off an inter-city bus outside of her home town of Tiaret on March 29 when police found several Bibles and books on Christianity in her hand bag.Algerian daily el Watan reported on Wednesday (May 21) that Kouider "refused to give up her new faith under the pressure," prompting the prosecutor to bring charges against her. At the hearing, Kouider's defense lawyer told the court that the charge against her client did not exist in the law. "There is no trace of a possible reason to try individuals for the 'practice of non-Muslim worship without authorization,'" Khelloudja Khalfoun said, according to el Watan.

Survey: 16 Percent of Science Teachers are Creationists


According to a recent national survey, 16 percent of U.S. science teachers are creationists, the Christian Post reports. The study, conducted by faculty at Pennsylvania State University, found that creationism continues to be taught in many classrooms despite judicial blocks. A majority of the almost 1,000 teachers surveyed said that they spent at least three to 10 hours of class time covering evolution, while a quarter those surveyed said they also taught creationism and intelligent design - about half of whom said they believed these to be "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species." Four states have passed "Academic Freedom" bills protecting teachers' and students'rights to challenge Darwinism without fear of backlash.

Protestors in Germany Harass 15,000 Strong Christian Youth Festival

LifeSiteNews.com reports that about 450 protestors physically and verbally assaulted some of the 15,000 Christians peacefully gathered for the April 30 opening day of the Christival German youth festival. The "No Christival" protest gathered only hundreds of meters from the festival. About 100 of the self-described "antisexist alliance" protestors broke down barricades, while other No Christival members set off fireworks and chanted anti-God slogans. Attacks on Christians continued throughout the festival that concluded May 4, and Christival hosts reported that some attendees were mobbed and had beer bottles thrown at them. The Christival events are part of a series of attacks on Christians that Christianophobia.eu has recently reported.

_______________________________


Title: Aid Reaches China Earthquake Victims
Post by: nChrist on May 27, 2008, 01:53:00 PM
Aid Reaches China Earthquake Victims
Michael Ireland

CHENGDU, CHINA (ANS) -- The Boeing 747 cargo plane chartered from Charlotte, North Carolina, by international Christian relief organization Samaritan's Purse and the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association arrived in Chengdu, China on Saturday.

The plane was greeted on the tarmac by grateful Chinese municipal leaders and a team of Samaritan's Purse staff ready to transport supplies to some of the region's worst-hit areas.

"The 747's arrival has greatly encouraged the people of China," said Gary Lundstrom, vice president of ministry for Samaritan's Purse, who has been on the ground in China since the May 12 earthquake. "The Chinese people are very grateful for supplies sent by Christians in the United States."

A media release states the cargo jet was loaded with emergency supplies including 1,140 rolls of high-grade plastic sheeting to provide temporary shelter to nearly 5,000 people, medical supplies, hygiene kits and blankets.

Samaritan's Purse also has water and sanitation experts from Water Missions International (WMI) on the ground to train and equip locals with six water filtration systems -- each with the capability of producing some 10,000 gallons of clean water per day -- serving tens of thousands of people.

Samaritan's Purse is an international Christian relief organization that provides immediate, no-red-tape response to the physical and spiritual needs of individuals in crisis situations -- especially in locations where few others are working. The organization is working in more than 100 countries to provide aid to victims of war, disease, natural disaster, poverty, famine and persecution.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 27, 2008, 01:55:12 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 26, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Burma to Accept 'All' Aid Workers to Help Cyclone Survivors
    * Algeria: Court Pressures Woman to Renounce Christ
    * Survey: 16 Percent of Science Teachers are Creationists
    * Protesters in Germany Harass 15,000 Strong Christian Youth Festival


Burma to Accept 'All' Aid Workers to Help Cyclone Survivors

After weeks of refusing access to foreign relief experts, the junta in Burma finally agreed to allow badly needed aid for cyclone victims into the country, according to FOX News. The agreement comes after U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Burma's effective ruler, Senior Gen Than Shwe, on Friday. Ban said the government also agreed to let in aid "via civilian ships and small boats," suggesting that foreign military ships may not be allowed to dock. Questions remain as to when the agreement will take effect, but a senior U.N. official present at the meeting said Than Shwe gave a "green light" for areas that were previously untouchable to workers, such as the hardest-hit region of the Irrawaddy Delta. International aid agencies now stand poised to act as soon as they find out the "practical details" of the country's new commitment. "This is a significant step forward, and could be a turning point in the aid response," said Brian Agland, who heads the U.S.-based aid group CARE in Burma.

Algeria: Court Pressures Woman to Renounce Christ

Compass Direct News reports that an Algerian public prosecutor has demanded a three-year sentence for a convert to Christianity in western Algeria for practicing her faith "without license." Habiba Kouider, 35, was plucked off an inter-city bus outside of her home town of Tiaret on March 29 when police found several Bibles and books on Christianity in her hand bag.Algerian daily el Watan reported on Wednesday (May 21) that Kouider "refused to give up her new faith under the pressure," prompting the prosecutor to bring charges against her. At the hearing, Kouider's defense lawyer told the court that the charge against her client did not exist in the law. "There is no trace of a possible reason to try individuals for the 'practice of non-Muslim worship without authorization,'" Khelloudja Khalfoun said, according to el Watan.

Survey: 16 Percent of Science Teachers are Creationists

According to a recent national survey, 16 percent of U.S. science teachers are creationists, the Christian Post reports. The study, conducted by faculty at Pennsylvania State University, found that creationism continues to be taught in many classrooms despite judicial blocks. A majority of the almost 1,000 teachers surveyed said that they spent at least three to 10 hours of class time covering evolution, while a quarter those surveyed said they also taught creationism and intelligent design - about half of whom said they believed these to be "valid, scientific alternative to Darwinian explanations for the origin of species." Four states have passed "Academic Freedom" bills protecting teachers' and students'rights to challenge Darwinism without fear of backlash.

Protesters in Germany Harass 15,000 Strong Christian Youth Festival

LifeSiteNews.com reports that about 450 protestors physically and verbally assaulted some of the 15,000 Christians peacefully gathered for the April 30 opening day of the Christival German youth festival. The "No Christival" protest gathered only hundreds of meters from the festival. About 100 of the self-described "antisexist alliance" protestors broke down barricades, while other No Christival members set off fireworks and chanted anti-God slogans. Attacks on Christians continued throughout the festival that concluded May 4, and Christival hosts reported that some attendees were mobbed and had beer bottles thrown at them. The Christival events are part of a series of attacks on Christians that Christianophobia.eu has recently reported.

__________________________


Title: Iraqi Christians Warn of 'New Catastrophe for Humanity'
Post by: nChrist on May 28, 2008, 05:14:00 PM
Iraqi Christians Warn of 'New Catastrophe for Humanity'
Patrick Goodenough

(Editor's note: Adds comment from Assyrian Universal Alliance.)

__ (CNSNews.com) - Days before Sweden hosts an international conference aimed at pushing ahead the political and economic reform process in Iraq, hundreds of exiled Iraqi Christians demonstrated outside the country's parliament Sunday to draw attention to the minority's plight in their homeland.

"A new wave of ethnic cleansing is going on in Iraq," Iraqi Christian representative Behiye Hadodo told the gathering. "If these atrocities continue, the Chaldean, Syriac and Assyrian communities there will be wiped out altogether, creating a new catastrophe for humanity."

Iraq's Assyrians are a non-Arab ethnic minority located mainly in northeastern Iraq, and adherents of Christian denominations including the Chaldean Catholic and Syriac Orthodox churches.

A 1987 census recorded 1.4 million Christians in Iraq, but the numbers began to drop after the 1990 Gulf War, reaching around 800,000 before the U.S. invaded in March 2003.

Persecution at the hands of Islamic radicals -- killings, church bombings, kidnappings, forced conversions and harassment -- has prompted hundreds of thousands of Christians to flee the country since 2003. Although accurate statistics are unavailable, researchers believe the community may have been halved in the past five years.

Many have moved to Syria and Jordan, and others to northern Europe, Australia and the United States.

Of an estimated 70,000 Iraqi Christians in Europe, nearly half are reported to live in Sweden.

Speeches during Sunday's rally in Stockholm centered on continuing harassment by fundamentalists in Iraq, including abductions and assaults of girls and women, and the forcing of women to wear veils in line with strict Islamic doctrines.

Participants reiterated calls for international support for an autonomous safe region for Iraqi Christians in the historical Assyrian region in the north of the country.

Hadodo, a representative of the European Syriac Union, said the demonstration's goal was to draw the attention of the United States, European Union and United Nations to the "ongoing terror" and especially to the murder of Christian clerics in Iraq.

On Thursday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will join counterparts and officials from around the world including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for a meeting near Stockholm that will follow up last year's launch of the International Compact with Iraq.

The compact is a partnership between the Iraqi government and the international community, aimed at pursuing political, economic and social development over a five-year period.

Iraqi officials are expected to outline progress made during the past year, with a strong focus on the security situation. Among those due to attend is Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, whose government is accused by the U.S. of destabilizing Iraq by supporting insurgents there.

Iraq's Christians are hoping that the meeting in Sweden will consider their concerns too.

_Since the liberation of Iraq much attention has been devoted to the demands and expectations of Iraq's Shi'a, Sunni, Kurds,_ Hermiz Shahen, secretary of the Australian chapter of the Assyrian Universal Alliance, said Wednesday.

_[Yet] the plight of the Assyrian nation is attracting little attention in the outside world._

Pointing to the high number of Christian refugees, Shahen said the international community must make the issue a priority.

Within one or two generations, he said, Christians in the Middle East - the birthplace of Christianity - may be reduced to a negligible number, having been forced to flee radical Islam.

_It is important that the Assyrian voice be heard [at the meeting in Sweden] and the Assyrian nation be distinctly recognized,_ he said. _It is time for the advocates who call for democracy, justice and human rights to stand up for the rights of the indigenous Assyrians of Iraq._

Shahen said Assyrians' demands included equitable representation in government and amendment of the Iraqi constitution to protect Assyrians and allow them _true and equal citizenship._

They also wanted the establishment of an Assyrian governorate or province, administered by Assyrians under the jurisdiction of Iraq's central government. This would encourage refugees, whether internally displaced or outside the country, to return, and enjoy political, educational, linguistic, religious and cultural protection, he said.

Prior to the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime, the U.S. designated Iraq as a "country of particular concern" (CPC) for religious freedom violations. The 1998 International Religious Freedom Act allows for a range of steps, including sanctions, to be taken against governments that engage in or tolerate serious religious freedom violations.

CPC designation was subsequently lifted, but the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body advising the White House and Congress, last year placed Iraq on a "watch list" pointing to escalating, unchecked violence against religious minorities as well as "evidence of collusion between Shi'a militias and Iraqi government ministries."

Earlier this month, the commission in a letter to Rice said it remained seriously concerned about the situation, citing violence against non-Muslims "from Sunni insurgents and foreign extremists, as well as pervasive violence, discrimination, and marginalization at the hands of the national government, regional governments, and para-state militias, including those in Kurdish areas."

Some of the commission's members argue that Iraq should already have be returned to the CPC blacklist, but the commission said it would make a recommendation in the near future, after a visit to Iraq.

Earlier this year the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, Paulos Faraj Rahho, became the most senior Christian figure to be slain. His body was found after gunmen abducted him at his church, killing three men with him.

The Minority Rights Group International says Iraq is the second-most dangerous country in the world for minorities in 2008, behind Somalia and ahead of Sudan, Afghanistan and Burma.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - May 28, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 28, 2008, 05:17:21 PM
Religion Today Summaries - May 28, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China: 80,000 Evacuated Due to Flood Threat
    * Eritrea: Jailed Pastors May Face Treason Charges
    * Church of England Advised Against Withholding Christ from Muslims
    * Bible Students Beaten by Hindu Radicals in India

China: 80,000 Evacuated Due to Flood Threat

FOX News reports that another 80,000 people are being displaced in China as a quake-spawned dam threatens to unleash floodwaters on a valley of almost 160,000 people from more than 30 townships. Soldiers carried explosives through the mountains to carve drainage channels away from potential break points, preparing to dynamite. The Tangjiashan lake in Sichuan province, formed during massive landslides caused by the earthquake, is only one of dozens of precarious dams that threaten to wreak even more damage. Meanwhile, two aftershocks in Qingchuan county yesterday afternoon flattened 420,000 houses. One aftershock measured a 4.7 magnitude. Officials said yesterday that 67,183 people were confirmed dead, with 20,790 still missing. Health officials say no major disease outbreaks have occurred.

Eritrea: Jailed Pastors May Face Treason Charges


According to Compass Direct News, the repressive regime of Eritrea plans to press formal charges of treason against several Protestant pastors jailed for the past four years. Official conviction for treason carries the death penalty in the African nation. Relatives and church members of the long-jailed pastors are experiencing "great anxiety" over these unconfirmed reports, sources inside Eritrea told Compass this week. Three of the most prominent Protestant pastors -- Full Gospel Church leaders Haile Naizghi and Dr. Kifle Gebremeskel, together with Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema Evangelical Church -- have been imprisoned incommunicado for the past four years. According to an investigative report released last week by Reporters Without Borders, these three pastors "have been missing within the Eritrean prison system since their arrests in May 2004." The report fingered special presidential adviser and government minister Naizghi Kiflu as "the man within the government in charge of crushing the churches."

Church of England Advised Against Withholding Christ from Muslims

Senior church leaders as well as some Muslim figures have voiced anger at the motion which argues the church must proclaim Jesus as the only way to salvation and offer strategies on how to evangelize Muslims, according to the Christian Post. "Most Muslims that I've talked to say, 'I really wish that Christians would stop watering down their faith and expecting us to do the same,'" said Paul Eddy, a lay member of the church's General Synod who proposed the motion, on BBC Radio Four on Sunday. "Until we start really saying what we really believe in our faith, there will be no respect." He argues that in trying to appeal to other faiths without offending them, the church has "lost its nerve" and "is not doing what the Bible says." The proposal is expected to be discussed at the General Synod summer meeting, July 4-8, in York in central England.

Bible Students Beaten by Hindu Radicals in India

ASSIST News Service reports that fifteen Indian Bible college students were beaten by Hindu radicals on Saturday, according to www.persecution.in. A group of 20 members belonging to Hindu radical groups such as Hindu Jagarna Vedike (Hindu Enlightenment Group) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council) barged into the rented building of the church-cum-bible college and attacked the students of Timothy Theological College, Bellary, Karnataka. About fifteen students and two college lecturers were mugged. The radicals tore up Bibles, smashed windows and destroyed all furniture in the facility. The attackers alleged that Rev. Jayaprakash, one of the lecturers, was conducting "forced conversions." Eleven people have been arrested in the case.

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Title: Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 1 of 3
Post by: nChrist on May 29, 2008, 09:14:05 PM
Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 1 of 3
Michael Donovan


May 29, 2008

Increase in converts apparently alarms Islamic nation.

ALGIERS, Algeria (Compass Direct News) -- The debate was urgent and often heated at the annual meeting of the Protestant Church of Algeria (EPA) earlier this month. The looming question: whether to obey or disobey government orders that have closed over half of the North African country's 50 Protestant churches in the past six months.

Algerian pastors argued the merits of reopening all their churches in a unified protest before EPA leadership elected to leave the difficult decision in the hands of each congregation.

"We have two choices: close down and hand over the keys, or we fight until the end when we get our rights," said Mustapha Krim, president of the Protestant umbrella network. "Each church should decide for itself."

Most of the closures stem from enforcement of Ordinance 06-03, a law restricting worship of non-Muslims passed in February 2006 but not enforced until this year. In addition to church closures, Protestants have been arrested in western Algeria as they travel between cities or exit religious meetings, and Catholics have been prevented from regular ministry activities outside their church walls.

Such restriction of religious freedoms has coincided with a barrage of antagonistic articles in Arabic newspapers, heightening tensions between Christians and Muslims in the Islamic Mediterranean nation.

Christians in Algeria have endured tougher times, including the country's guerrilla war for independence from France in the 1950s and its violent civil conflict of the 1990s -- fueled by religious extremists -- that claimed upwards of 100,000 lives. But today's challenges are in some ways more ominous.

"This is the most pressure Christians have faced in Algeria," said Farid Bouchama, an Algerian televangelist living in France. "Before it was discrimination from families or jobs, but this is the first organized pressure from the state."

Government officials assert that they are simply placing Christians under the same restrictions that govern Muslim worship in order to guard against religious extremism. But officials have also made public remarks that equate Christian evangelism with terrorism and support the popular perception -- fueled by the Arabic press campaign -- that the Islamic identity of Algeria is under threat.

"This is very new, to be considered as an enemy of the country," said one Catholic leader. "In the past, priests and sisters were considered good persons. Now we are 'missionaries,' and thus dangerous."

Obstacles to Reopening

Protestant pastors seeking to reopen their churches legally have encountered conflicting instructions and bureaucratic runarounds from local authorities.

"People are asking if the EPA is legal or not. Sometimes I ask the same question," said Krim. "The government has not given us a straight answer."

At least four EPA churches have remained open, disputing the legal basis for their closure. One long-standing church in Ouadhia reports visiting the local governor 12 times for approval and each time receiving new orders for changes to paperwork.

"Churches are trying to be good -- to have a legal existence -- but there is no answer from the authorities," said an EPA leader. "It's a big confusion. We don't know what door to knock on, because nobody wants to answer."

Krim said the EPA has done all it can to ensure that its member churches, most of which meet in homes or converted garages, are legal. Protestant leaders have met with government officials while also mobilizing international pressure through Algerian Christians living in France. The strategy that emerged from the general assembly this May: Go to the Algerian religious minister with a dossier of registration papers for each church group and collectively appeal for legal status -- and if denied yet again, then take their case to the local and foreign press.

Most church closures have occurred in the eastern region of Kabylie, a mountainous area dominated by ethnic minority Berbers. "We are not free to live our faith freely," said one Kabylie pastor. In addition to church closures, Protestants report experiencing police harassment, lost employment, and family conflicts resulting in legal disputes.

Pretext for Harassment

At least 12 Protestants in the western Arab region of Algeria have been detained or convicted this year, most in reference to Ordinance 06-03.

Some report being stopped at checkpoints while traveling and arrested for possession of personal Bibles around Tiaret, a conservative Islamic agricultural community. Others report being lured into giving Bibles to undercover police. Those arrested have received steep fines and suspended prison sentences, placing them at risk of imprisonment from false accusations.

Some observers suggest these are cases of local officials over-applying the vaguely-worded 2006 law, which confines non-Muslim worship to specific buildings approved by the state and establishes steep criminal penalties for proselytizing and distributing or storing religious literature. The ordinance drew criticism from U.S. and European leaders for what the U.S. 2007 International Religious Freedom report identified as "vague wordings that render it susceptible to arbitrary interpretations and applications."
============================


Title: Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 2 of 3
Post by: nChrist on May 29, 2008, 09:16:32 PM
Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 2 of 3
Michael Donovan

Others say the ordinance is being intentionally used to crack down on Christians.

"The law is an excuse to enter our realm," said a Christian leader near Tiaret whose house church has stopped meeting together. "Without the law we wouldn't have any problems."

Troubled Catholics

Problems for Catholics thus far have not been as severe as those experienced by Protestants, yet the vagueness of Ordinance 06-03 and its potential for over-zealous application by local authorities looms large. Some clergymen fear the worst.

"We have to be careful, because if this law is fully put into practice, we could lose everything -- even the Mass," said one Catholic leader.

The case of a Catholic priest arrested in December for praying with Cameroon migrants on the Algerian border -- as priests have regularly done for a decade -- is on appeal to the Algerian supreme court. Meanwhile authorities have placed other restrictions upon Catholics, citing Ordinance 06-03.

For the first time in 30 years, priests were prohibited from celebrating Christmas and Easter services for Italian expatriates working in Algeria's petroleum industry. Nuns in Ouargla have been ordered to stop giving French lessons and running a library for university students. Clergy cannot obtain visas for visiting priests and must now ask government permission for what were common ministry activities, including yearly pilgrimages to shrines and visiting prisoners in jail.

"Everything now is changed," said one Catholic leader.

Most of Algeria's estimated 2,000 Catholics are foreign workers or African students and thus limited in defending their religious rights.

"We are afraid to speak, afraid to do anything," said another Catholic leader. "I'm not afraid to go to jail, but I am afraid to be deported. I want to stay in Algeria. If my risk was only jail, I would be free."

Catholic leaders believe the enforcement of Ordinance 06-03 is directed at controlling the Algerian Christian minority in Kabylie. "We Catholics are caught in between this law and its target," said one Catholic leader. "They think all Christians are the same."

By example, newspaper articles antagonistic towards Protestants are often illustrated with photos of Catholic churches and leaders. Catholic leaders interviewed suggest this stems from government misunderstandings of Catholic social work.

"They see our libraries and language lessons as attempts to convert Muslims," said the Catholic leader. "They don't understand why we do these things."

Catholics remained intentionally in Algeria after the nation's 1962 independence -- when most French expatriates left -- and stayed through the terrorism-filled 1990s in order to do social work.

"In a land where Christians live as a minority, they must testify to the first commandment of God," said a Catholic leader. "We must put love of neighbor to work, even when it is not easy."

Why Now?

Observers in Algeria are uncertain why the 2006 law is only now being enforced, as well as whether the pressure stems from top-down efforts by government officials to restrain Christian activity or from bottom-up populism against Christians inflamed by Arabic press accounts.

Some suggest political motivations are at play. Observers point out that President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's gambit to change the constitution to allow him a third term in 2009 will require the support of Islamist political parties. Others believe the Algerian government fears the development of a sizable Christian minority in Kabylie, where Berbers have long been restive for greater autonomy.

Still others hold that the crackdown on Christianity may be intended to distract Algerians from pressing domestic concerns such as a national housing shortage and inflation of staple goods prices.

"Why focus on real problems when you can focus on straw men?" said one observer familiar with the political situation.

Christian leaders believe that the increased persecution comes less because Islamists are growing in power than because Christians converts are increasing in number, thanks to Algerian church planters and Christian satellite TV.

"They are afraid about what God is doing in Algeria," said Bouchama, the France-based Algerian televangelist.

Protestant church planters have been active in recent years, claiming to launch dozens of churches as they travel and find converts already present in many towns thanks to Christian radio and satellite TV. Conservative estimates put Algerians Christians at 10,000 strong, largely concentrated in Kabylie where the non-Arab populace has proven more receptive to Christianity.

Protestants first established a foothold in Kabylie in the 1980s and grew in number through the 1990s while the government was occupied with domestic terrorism. While terrorist attacks continue in Algeria, relative to the '90s concerns have begun to subside just as evangelism efforts have doubled the Protestant presence in Arab areas outside of Kabylie.
=============================


Title: Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 3 of 3
Post by: nChrist on May 29, 2008, 09:18:29 PM
Why Algeria Has Begun Clamping Down on Christians 3 of 3
Michael Donovan

"Now the government has time to occupy itself with the problem of the church," said one Christian leader in Kabylie. "The government didn't care when Christians were only in Kabylie. But now we are in Arab places, the government cares."

In April 2006, President Bouteflika publicly stated that Algeria's democratic nature did not mean its citizens should "not react to the Christianization of our children."

Newspaper articles have regularly called for the creation of a government committee to "fight the Christianization of Algeria." Some Christian leaders believe such a group does exist and is behind the wave of press attacks claiming Christian churches offer visas or 5,000 euros for Muslim conversions.

"They are trying to scare people that Algeria is becoming Christian," said an Algiers leader. "And they are trying to scare the Christians to stop evangelizing."

Discrimination Denied

Algerian officials deny any discrimination against non-Muslims, asserting that Ordinance 06-03 places Christians under the same restrictions that govern Muslim worship for internal security concerns. The Algerian government strictly regulates the study and practice of Islam in schools and mosques in the wake of the 1990s civil conflict and continued acts of terrorism by Islamist extremists, including suicide car bombings that killed more than 30 people in Algiers in April 2007 and again in December 2007.

Christian leaders acknowledge that Islam is also regulated in practice but say the restrictions hit them harder -- mainly because the Muslim government misunderstands Christianity.

Some confusion may stem from different definitions of what constitutes a "church" or "worship." Protestant groups gathering in houses and garages are not valid churches in the eyes of the Algerian government. And visits by priests to pray with groups outside their churches do not constitute worship in the eyes of Catholics but appear to be deemed so by Muslim officials.

Christians also point out the lack of reciprocal legislation banning Muslim proselytism of non-Muslims.

Some Christian leaders expressed concern for how Christianity can be vibrant under the shadow of Ordinance 06-03.

"If the law is not removed, I don't see how the church will survive in this place," said one Christian leader in Algiers. "Those who are resisting may get tired, or the pressure from authorities may become greater."

"Our fear is to become just the Mass -- we don't want to be just that," said a Catholic leader. "All of our activities would be over. If the Catholic Church was only for Sundays or for foreigners, we couldn't live."

Hope of Legitimacy

The outlook for Algerian Christians is not all gloomy. Though Ordinance 06-03 is at the heart of current troubles, both Protestants and Catholics point out that the law establishes the legitimacy of Christianity in Algeria.

"The law tries to restrict our freedom, but it also makes us official," said an Algiers leader. "They cannot say any more that there are no Christians in Algeria; if so, why is there a law?"

"This is a new state in the level of government recognition: 'Christians are here in Algeria, and we need to deal with them,'" said Bouchama.

And the barrage of newspaper articles has raised the profile of the Christian faith among the Algerian populace. Some Christians speak of Muslims coming to churches for the euros that prospective converts are widely rumored to receive, and instead leaving with Bibles.

"The good part is the free publicity to the Christian church as people come to see what it is all about," said one Protestant leader. "But the danger is from the stirring up of emotions and the possibility of fanatics taking things into their own hands."

Protestant pastors report that the difficulties have also brought unity to their congregations. Many church bodies, composed mostly of Muslim converts, are now smaller but stronger.

"This is the good thing in hard times of persecution," said one Algiers leader. "The people you cannot rely on will step back, while the people who are very strong will remain."

Algerian church leaders are braced for further restrictions of their religious freedom, but most believe their government will prove responsive to international pressure.

"It's good that Algeria knows that the world is looking at her," said one Christian leader.  "Even though we can't see any fruits now, we would like to have more international pressure."

Noted one Kabylie pastor, "If our brothers outside the country stop speaking out about this problem, I think the future will be very difficult for us."

For now, most pastors interviewed expressed hope for the future. The daily attacks in Arabic press endured since January finally subsided this month. And they report that Algerians continue to come to faith through satellite TV and church planting efforts, bringing encouragement to their congregations in hard times.

One Kabylie pastor reported that his church building was closed in April, but today his 200 church members now meet in homes.

"They have closed one church, and now we have 10 churches," he said. "The church is not the walls."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries ? May 29, 2008
Post by: nChrist on May 29, 2008, 09:21:09 PM
Religion Today Summaries ? May 29, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Chinese Persecution of House Churches Intensifies
    * Missionaries and Relief Organizations Address Rising Food Costs
    * Church Transition Statistics Studied
    * Creation Museum Prepares Anniversary Celebration

Chinese Persecution of House Churches Intensifies

ASSIST News Service and the Institute on Religion and Democracy report that the Ministry of Public Security has received funding from the Chinese Central Government to increase their campaign of eradicating house churches throughout China. While the amount of funds allocated for this campaign is unknown, the steady increase of persecution against house churches continues to rise substantially across China, says the China Aid Association (CAA). The IRD said a sudden increase of incidents involving both the Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) and the Public Security Bureau (PSB) is indicative of a crackdown. Whether or not the government is beginning a comprehensive effort to clear out house churches, local authorities of the government's enforcement apparatus are bearing down on Christians. In Xinjiang Province, officials have posted signs asking citizens to report any "evil cult activity," in this case meaning house churches, and two Christians in Xinjiang have been charged with the serious crime of being "separatists."

Missionaries and Relief Organizations Address Rising Food Costs

As food prices soar, many struggle to find -- much less afford -- even basic food items, the Baptist Press reports. Political strife and natural disasters in recent weeks have only compounded the problem in some countries. International Mission Board missionaries are working alongside Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization, to help people in places like Zimbabwe, Niger, Senegal, Thailand and other countries, where bread prices have as much as tripled in recent weeks. Relief organizations are also stepping up efforts to combat food prices. Compassion International has created the Global Food Crisis Fund to help meet children's immediate physical needs around the globe. "Pray that those who are being helped ... will see God's concern for them and turn to the One who is sending them help," said Jack Kinnison, an IMB missionary to Thailand.

Church Transition Statistics Studied

OneNewsNow reports that a new survey on people changing churches shows that 69 percent of church-goers have switched their place of worship during their adult lives, but there is not a broad, overall trend favoring a particular denomination or music style. Conducted by Ellison Research, the study found that more than half of adults who changed places of worship said their new church is, theologically, about the same as their previous one. Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, says the number of those who changed churches varies by faith group, with evangelical Protestants being highest at 81 percent. Outside of a job-related move, the most common reasons for changing places of worship were theology and teaching at 39.39 percent, worship style at 21.84 percent, and opportunities for children at 18.56 percent.

Creation Museum Prepares Anniversary Celebration

The Creation Museum in Kentucky has attracted over 400,000 visitors since it opened in May 2007, and celebrates its one year anniversary this weekend, according to the Christian Post. "We are delighted to continue to welcome new visitors to the museum and we are excited about the future as we continue to reach new people with the creation/gospel message," said Ken Ham, president and co-founder of Answers in Genesis, the founding organization of the museum. The museum features state of the art exhibits and displays, such as animatronic dinosaurs and a huge wooden ark, all delivering a literal account of the biblical creation story as aligned with natural history. Today, the museum celebrates the anniversary with fireworks, a musical about Noah's flood, and the opening of its brand new petting zoo.

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Title: SBC Pastors and U.S. Public Differ on Key Issues
Post by: nChrist on June 01, 2008, 07:01:27 AM
SBC Pastors and U.S. Public Differ on Key Issues
David Roach

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A majority of Southern Baptist Convention pastors believe the media has overstated the threat of global warming and that SBC resolutions have not been "too timid" in addressing the issue, according to a recent study on national issues by LifeWay Research.

The study also found a contrast between the opinions of SBC pastors and average Americans on global warming and such issues as physician-assisted suicide and embryonic stem cell research.

In another finding, SBC pastors overwhelmingly favor Republican John McCain over his two Democratic rivals, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

Eighty percent of SBC pastors plan to vote for McCain. Obama was supported by 1 percent of pastors, while Clinton gained 0 percent of pastors' support. Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research, a division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, noted, "While many have spoken of the weakening of evangelical support of some conservative causes and candidates, that does not seem to be reflected in the voting plans of SBC pastors."

Meanwhile, 15 percent of Southern Baptist pastors were undecided about their presidential votes, while 4 percent of pastors said they plan to vote for a candidate other than the three major contenders.

Regarding SBC resolutions on global warming, the study revealed only 17 percent of the denomination's pastors see the convention as too timid in its stances on climate change. Sixty-five percent of pastors either somewhat disagreed or strongly disagreed that the convention has been too timid in its resolutions on climate change.

"The majority of Southern Baptists are comfortable with the stand of the convention from past resolutions," Stetzer said. "They do not think the convention resolutions have been too timid."

A resolution adopted by the SBC in 2007 urged Southern Baptists to "proceed cautiously in the human-induced global warming debate in light of conflicting scientific research." The resolution additionally said that Southern Baptists "consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale."

As a solution to global warming, the resolution said Southern Baptists "strongly request that all public policy decision makers ensure an appropriate balance between care for the environment, effects on economies, and impacts on the poor when considering programs to reduce CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions."

Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, noted, "Skepticism of the media's coverage of global warming is pervasive among SBC pastors."

When asked whether they "believe that the media has overstated the threat of global warming," 86 percent of SBC pastors responded in the affirmative. Seventy-five percent of SBC pastors disagreed with the idea that "the government should take significant action to reduce carbon emissions to combat global warming, even if the action causes serious, negative economic impact on average Americans' living standards."

An additional study of 1,201 Americans showed divergent views with Southern Baptist pastors. A representative sample of Americans surveyed appeared more convinced than Southern Baptist pastors that humans play a role in global warming, with 77 percent agreeing that the earth is warming and that humans contribute to that warming to some degree. Thirty-six percent of SBC pastors agreed with the same statement.

Physician-Assisted Suicide

The study also noted a sharp contrast between Southern Baptist pastors and average Americans on physician-assisted suicide. While half of Americans agreed that it is morally acceptable for a person facing a painful terminal disease to ask for a physician's aid in taking his life, 81 percent of SBC pastors strongly disagreed with that position.

Southern Baptist pastors again broke with average Americans on embryonic stem cell research. Though 66 percent of Americans said embryonic stem cell research is morally acceptable given the potential for medical breakthroughs, only 6 percent of pastors agreed. Seventy-six percent of pastors strongly disagreed with embryonic stem cell research, and an additional 14 percent of pastors said they somewhat disagree with embryonic stem cell research.

McConnell noted that amid a variety of topics covered in the study, questions on what is morally acceptable triggered the strongest opinions among pastors.

"Americans are clearly looking at a different moral compass in terms of stem cell research and physician-assisted suicide," McConnell said. "In both of these moral questions, more than three-quarters of SBC pastors strongly advocated the embryo and the life, while many Americans gravitated toward medical breakthroughs and ending pain."

The study findings are based on surveys conducted by LifeWay Research in spring 2008. A telephone survey of a representative weighted sample of American adults was conducted April 10-12. The total sample size of 1,201 provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error for Americans does not exceed +2.9 percent. An online survey of a representative, weighted sample of 778 Southern Baptist pastors was conducted April 16-May 5. This total sample size provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error for SBC pastors does not exceed +3.5 percent.
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Title: British Bishop Says Islam is Filling "Moral Vacuum"
Post by: nChrist on June 02, 2008, 11:14:29 PM
British Bishop Says Islam is Filling "Moral Vacuum"
By Michael Ireland

ROCHESTER, ENGLAND -- Church of England Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali of Rochester, England, who earlier this year caused anger by suggesting that some Muslim communities were 'no-go areas,' has created a fresh argument by claiming that the collapse of a 'Christian nation' has left Britain in a moral vacuum.

According to staff writers for the British Christian think-tank Ekklesia, the comments come in an article for the debut issue of the new political magazine Standpoint -- which has a very small circulation, but has been projected into the headlines by front-page stories in the right-of-centre Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail newspapers, and coverage on the BBC.

The Ekklesia website says the bishop stated that the marginalization of Christianity as the recognized rudder for British life has created a loss of sustainable moral values, and that a that radical form of Islam is threatening to fill the gap.

The think tank said: "Last week he said that respect for Islam in Britain 'may have gone too far' and backed a hard-line evangelical resolution for the Church of England's General Synod (its ruling assembly of bishops, clergy and lay people) calling for more overt attempts to promote the Christian message among Muslims."

Ekklesia says his article criticizes "multiculturalism" and says that historic Christianity knitted together a "rabble of mutually hostile tribes" to generate a British identity which was able to create a global empire.

But now, he believes, the trajectory produced by the "social and sexual" revolution of the 1960s has led to a steep decline in the influence of Christianity over society which church leaders have failed to resist.

The nation is now gripped by the doctrine of "endless self-indulgence" which has led to rising crime and the decline of the traditional family, he says.

The bishop argues that the government has been able to come up only with "thin" values --such as tolerance, decency and fairness -- which are not "freestanding" but rely on a particular belief system rooted in Judaeo-Christian thought. More substantial resources are needed, he suggests, for an "ideological battle" against radical Islam, which he likens to the Western struggle against Marxism.

Ekklesia says Dr Nazir Ali's comments have produced sharply diverging responses, with strong endorsement from internet readers of the newspapers that have publicised them, and disagreement or dismay from others.

Mohammed Shafiq of the Ramadhan Foundation said that it was wrong and misleading to characterize Islam in terms of its wilder fringes, and that together people in Britain could build a common future.

The National Secular Society suggested that he was trying to "save Christianity" by raising the spectre of Islam -- though secularists have also attacked what they see as the growing influence of the Muslim religion in British public life.

Simon Barrow, co-director of the religion and society think tank Ekklesia, said that the bishop's comments were "misguidedly trying to defend the myth of a 'Christian nation' rather than looking at how Christianity has often historically lost its way by becoming a cosy part of a withering social, political and cultural order."

He added: "There are indeed serious issues about moral cohesion in modern, plural societies. But diversity and disagreement cannot be wished away, and a vision of social justice and responsibility will not be created by lecturing people, seeking to restore Christian privilege, portraying Islam as the new threat, or bemoaning the loss of a monoculture.

"The churches need to be seen as small-scale communities of positive hope, not wounded dinosaurs complaining that people do not take them seriously any more and that the country is going to the dogs," he concluded.

Dr Nazir-Ali is the only Church of England diocesan bishop from an Asian background. Born in Pakistan, he became an Anglican via Catholicism, and was Bishop of Raiwind and general secretary of the Church Mission Society (CMS) before moving to Rochester.

Passed over as Archbishop of Canterbury when Dr Rowan Williams was elected, Dr Nazir Ali is regarded as a senior Church of England bishop and sits as a member of the unelected House of Lords, by virtue of a privilege given to the Established Church.

Standpoint is a new monthly political comment magazine aimed at a "thinking public" and backed by shipping millionaire Alan Bekhor. It is supported by the right-of-centre Social Market Unit, a think-tank which aims at "driving its coach and horses through the liberal consensus" and which Bekhor helped establish, according to The Observer newspaper.

Other corporate backers include the John Templeton Foundation, which hands out the world's largest annual cash prize for improving the understanding between science and religion.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 2, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 02, 2008, 11:16:20 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 2, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Vatican: Ordaining Women Incurs Excommunication
    * 23,000 Teens Donate Millions in Free Labor
    * Iraq: Pastor Jailed for "Kidnapping"
    * Not over yet in China, Burma

Vatican: Ordaining Women Incurs Excommunication

The Catholic News Service reports that both women who attempt to become priests and those who attempt to ordain them incur automatic excommunication, according to the Vatican's doctrinal congregation. The May 30 decree by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith was published "for the good of the church and to ensure bishops have a common way of responding" when such ceremonies are held in their dioceses, Dominican Father Augustine Di Noia, undersecretary of the doctrinal congregation, said. "The problem is not that all of a sudden there was a tsunami of attempted ordinations of women," he continued. Instead, the Code of Canon Law and the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches "never anticipated that such a thing would happen" and required explicit application to the offense of women ordination.

23,000 Teens Donate Millions in Free Labor

Young Southern Baptists kicked off a major outreach initiative Friday that will offer $16.4 million in free labor to urban populations over the next few months, according to the Christian Post. The more than 23,000 students -- ranging from teen-age to college-age -- will each donate a week to participating in the 2008 World Changers project. Participants will rehabilitate sub-standard homes in poor neighborhoods across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Indianapolis will be the first of 96 cities to host the World Changers project. Students will work on 15 homes from May 30 to June 7, installing new roofs, repairing drywalls, paint, and landscape. The program is in its 19th year.

Iraq: Pastor Jailed for "Kidnapping"


According to Compass Direct News, an Iraqi pastor jailed on kidnapping charges and held for 30 days in the Kurdish region last month has said the real reason for his arrest was religious. Pastor Abdul Kareem Yacob said Kurdish secret police arrested, released and then re-arrested him before finally allowing his release on bail on April 28. Yacob's lawyer, Akram al-Najar, told Compass that though the kidnapping trial is ongoing, he does not believe the court will have any reason to convict his client.  Separately, a pastor expects the early release of a Christian teenager from Dohuk jailed for fatally stabbing her uncle in July 2006. Asya Ahmad Muhammad, 16, had stabbed her uncle in self-defense as he was beating her for converting to Christianity and for "shaming" the family by working in public.

Not over yet in China, Burma

CNN reports that an additional 40,000 people have been ordered to evacuate Beichuan county in China due to the ongoing flood threat from the "quake lake," state-run media reported Friday. Nearly 200,000 have been told to leave the area. Chinese authorities say an estimated 1.3 million would have to be evacuated if the dam break completely. Meanwhile, soldiers continue efforts to create a spillway to relieve pressure on the dam. In Burma, only about 50% of the regions affected by Cyclone Nargis have received any help, UNICEF estimated. Although the junta has allowed in non-governmental relief workers, many regions are only reachable after hours of boat travel, as most roads and bridges are impassable. Daily monsoon rains also hamper efforts to deliver shelter, food, water and health care.

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Title: Eritrea Jails 34 More Christians in House Church Raid
Post by: nChrist on June 03, 2008, 11:45:55 AM
Eritrea Jails 34 More Christians in House Church Raid
Special to Compass Direct


Previously arrested 25 evangelicals transferred to military prison.

LOS ANGELES -- Eritrean security police cracked down on more Christians again last week, arresting 34 evangelicals gathered for prayer and fellowship in a local home in Keren.

The police raid on Wednesday (May 28 ) targeted members of the Berhane Hiwet (Light of Life) Church in Keren, Eritrea's third largest city 200 kilometers (124 miles) northwest of the capital Asmara.

All 24 men and 10 women present were taken to prison, with their children left behind. The next day security officials transferred the 10 women prisoners, all of them married, to the Adi-Abyto Military Confinement facility.

The Keren raid was the second round of arrests last week in Eritrea, where the oppressive regime has outlawed all independent Protestant churches since 2002, closing their buildings and banning gatherings in private homes.

Worshippers caught disobeying the blanket restrictions are arrested and tortured for weeks, months or even years. They are never allowed legal counsel or brought to trial.

Three days after the previous weekend's arrest of 25 Protestant Christians in Adi-Kuala on May 24, police authorities transferred them to the Wi'a Military Training Center, where they were being subjected to harsh military punishment.

Eyewitnesses in Adi-Kuala confirmed that security police officials were beating the prisoners as they loaded them on a truck to be transported to Wi'a on Tuesday (May 27).

Treason Charges

The new arrests followed a spate of unconfirmed reports that began circulating  throughout the capital of Asmara last week, indicating that several leading Protestant pastors jailed for four years without charges may soon face trial for treason.

Full Gospel Church leaders Dr. Kifle Gebremeskel and Haile Naizghi and Pastor Tesfatsion Hagos of the Rema Evangelical Church have been imprisoned since May 2004. Their exact whereabouts remain unknown, with their families and church members refused any access to them.

At least 2,000 Eritrean Christians are incarcerated in local jails, police stations and military camps for their religious beliefs and practices. Some are held in underground cells or metal shipping containers in an effort to pressure them to recant their faith and join one of the nation's "historic" Christian churches.

The government recognizes only the Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches as legal religions, in addition to the traditional Islam practiced by half of the population.

Rated since 2004 by the U.S. Department of State as a "Country of Particular Concern" for its severe restrictions on religious liberty, Eritrea was the first nation subjected to official U.S. sanctions under the 1998 Religious Freedom Act.

President Isaias Afwerki and his government categorically deny that religious persecution exists in Eritrea, insisting such reports are based on "false allegations, exaggeration and baseless fabrication."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 3, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 03, 2008, 11:51:30 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 3, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * UK: Church Bemoans 'Poor Quality' of Vicars
    * Algeria Defends Prosecution of Convert
    * Obama Quits Trinity Church
    * Rick Warren Joins Interfaith Group


UK: Church Bemoans 'Poor Quality' of Vicars

A self-report by the Church of England found "serious concerns" at the top of the Church hierarchy over the quality of its clergy, the UK Telegraph reported. A survey of diocesan bishops found that one-third believe that more than half of current clergy - which could be as many as 6,000 - cannot handle job demands. Ninety percent said that a third of new clergy do not have the necessary gifts and abilities for the calling. The report suggested the problem is primarily because of looser ordination standards due to an increase in vacant posts, which may be due to poor pay. The report suggests reviewing ordination standards and selection criteria, as well as a pay review and training for preaching performance. "Truthfully, it is deeply depressing," one bishop said.

Algeria Defends Prosecution of Convert

ASSIST News Service reports that Algerian official charged Protestant evangelicals with secretly trying to divide Algerians to colonize the mainly Muslim north African country. Abu Amrane Chikh, head of the government-appointed Higher Islamic Council, said uproar in the West over a recent prosecution of an Algerian woman on a charge of practicing Christianity was being heightened for the benefit of foreigners. Reuters reported Chikh added, "The evangelist movement is characterized by a secret activity that violates the Koran and the Sunna in one way or another." Reuters reported that Chikh said in Habiba Kouider's situation, Algeria was concerned to ensure respect for a provision in the 2006 law that forbids non-Muslims from seeking to convert Muslims. Chikh added, "There is no movement opposed to Christians as alleged by some tendentious minds. It is only about respecting Islam in a Muslim country, just as one must respect the Christian religion in a Christian state."

Obama Quits Trinity Church

After another episode of divisive remarks came from the pulpit, presidential candidate Barack Obama has resigned his 20-year membership at Trinity United Church in Chicago. According to OneNewsNow.com, Obama said, "This is not a decision I come to lightly ... and it is one I make with some sadness," Obama said at a news conference. He refused to denounce the church and said the decision to leave was a personal one. "It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles," he said. The decision came shortly after visiting priest Michael Pfleger mocked Obama's rival Hillary Clinton.

Rick Warren Joins Interfaith Group

The Associated Press reports that former British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Friday that world leaders must work to end religious conflict or face "catastrophe" as he introduced a new interfaith foundation. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation will fight extremism in all religions while organizing groups to fight poverty and illness, he said. Blair recently converted to Roman Catholicism. His foundation has already received tens of millions of dollars in donations and pledges, according to one Blair representative. The group's advisory council includes evangelical megapastor and author Rick Warren, who with his wife, Kay, advocates for HIV/AIDS victims worldwide.
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Title: As Kenya Strife Ceases, Refugees Continue to Suffer
Post by: nChrist on June 07, 2008, 02:03:36 PM
As Kenya Strife Ceases, Refugees Continue to Suffer
Erich Bridges


June 5, 2008

LIMURU, Kenya -- A 1-year-old girl died of pneumonia in May at a refugee camp on the grounds of Word of Faith Church in Limuru, northwest of Nairobi.

Despite the shortage of firewood for heating and cooking, carpenter John Kimani* --- himself a camp resident and survivor of the post-election violence in Kenya --- built a coffin for the child. The small, rough-hewn box sat awaiting her body on a sunny afternoon as several Southern Baptist relief workers visited the IDP ("internally displaced persons") camp.

This child's death made no headlines inside or outside Kenya. Months have passed since the disputed Kenyan presidential election on Dec. 27 unleashed weeks of frenzied political and tribal violence, killing more than 1,000 people and driving at least 300,000 from their homes.

Other international crises have arisen since. Other disasters have claimed the world's attention.

The political powder keg that threatened to explode into civil war in once-stable Kenya was defused --- at least for the moment --- when President Mwai Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga struck a power-sharing deal in February. Kibaki retained his presidential post; Odinga became prime minister in April. By late May, the government and the Kenya Red Cross Society claimed that up to 250,000 displaced Kenyans had returned to their homes (or resettled in their own tribal areas) with the promise of police protection and security.

But many thousands of Kenyans driven from their houses, farms and businesses fear going home --- or have no home to return to. Undercurrents of ethnic hatred, economic resentment and longstanding disputes over land ownership burst into the open in the election's aftermath. Towns and districts where different groups once lived and worked side by side, even intermarried, may never return to peaceful coexistence.

"I'm not sure how many people are going to be able to go back," said Southern Baptist missionary Doug Lee. "Their homes have been burned."

Lee recently completed a trip to survey churches sheltering displaced people in the vast Rift Valley, site of some of the worst "skirmishes," as the political-tribal clashes are called. The churches received food and other aid from Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist relief and development agency.

New "police stations" --- often, tents manned by three or four men --- dot the area. Other returning refugees pool their savings and hire private security guards to accompany them to farm fields during the day. But those measures won't solve the real problem, Lee noted.

"I'm sure there are a lot of places where the violence was not that intense and people just left in fear," he said.

"They can go back. But the people who were really affected, whose houses were stolen and burned, there is no peace for them. The people [who drove them out] still feel like, 'You're on our land.' It's a land dispute between the Kikuyu and the Kalenjin [tribes]. The government has done a good job identifying the problem, but they're not going to solve it by pushing them back home. It's going to re-emerge."

Jesse Maina, who teaches several children of displaced families at a Kenyan Baptist church school, put it this way: "Somebody is living in your house. He is still there. Maybe the cow he is milking is yours. How do you go home without fear?"

Hungry and Homeless

Hunger is making the situation even worse. Kenya, like many other countries, has seen the price of staple food items double, even triple, in recent months. Fertilizer and fuel prices have soared with the cost of oil. The violence prevented the planting of crops in many areas.

So, thousands of homeless people remain in IDP centers like the Word of Faith camp in Limuru, which continues to shelter about 500 people, mostly Kikuyu. Nearly 500 more come daily from temporary dwellings nearby for food. Dome tents and latrines surround the church. The scent of sewage and sweat mingles with cooking smells as adults and children line up for meals. They hold bowls while volunteers ladle out food. Clothes and mattresses hang over a makeshift fence to dry.

One of the displaced families is led by Kimani, builder of the child's coffin. A Kikuyu, he fled with his wife, mother and three young children from Eldoret, site of perhaps the most notorious atrocity of the post-election violence: the New Year's Day burning of a church with terrified men, women and children inside. Dozens of people died in the flames, including Kimani's father-in-law. His wife, Mary, escaped from the fire with burns from her shoulders to her heels. She shows some of the long scars that streak her arms and legs.

"We are not going back to that land," Kimani fiercely asserted. "We are not going back. And if the government forces us to go, we are going back for revenge. The one who burned the church is my neighbor. I can't stay with someone who burned my father."

Food, medicine and other supplies from the government and major aid agencies have slowed to a trickle inside the camp. But local Christians and other community members continue to help however they can, assisted by missionaries and groups such as Baptist Global Response, which has delivered food, water and other aid.

"These disasters are kind of cyclical, where at the beginning you get a lot of interest, especially from the outside, so you get a lot of aid coming in," said BGR Africa coordinator Mark Hatfield. "But then the world gets tired of it after awhile, the aid stops coming and the whole process slows down."

Camp warden Joseph Njoroge welcomed Hatfield and his wife Susan during their recent camp visit and showed them overflowing latrine pits. He was worried about the threat of disease (BGR funds paid for the pumping out of three pits a few days later, improving sanitary conditions in the camp). It's just one of the many concerns he's dealt with since frightened and hungry people first arrived at the church a few days after the election.

"When they came, they met me here," said Njoroge, an active member of the church. "From the first day I have been here."

He looks after the refugees' physical needs, works with volunteers who come to help --- and keeps a close eye on moral standards in the camp. "This is a sanctuary of God, and we do not defile the altar," he explained. That means preventing child abuse and rape in the camp. He doesn't tolerate drunkenness, either.

The constant need weighs on him, but he feels he can't turn his back on the people.

"You see this mama here?" he asked, pointing to an elderly woman sitting in a wheelchair near the feeding line. "She does not know where to go. Why she is here, she does not know. It has become a requirement and a need for me to come here. If I do not come for a day, I feel as if I've committed a crime. I'm a part and parcel of these people."

Many Kenyans, galvanized by what they witnessed during the worst of the violence, have demonstrated the same commitment to helping their neighbors, regardless of tribe. But they're also searching for answers that will last longer than emergency food and shelter.

Solution: Reconciliation

A hint at a more permanent solution can be found in another IDP camp, located on the grounds of a police station in the Nairobi slum of Babadogo. Conditions for the 350 displaced people languishing there are worse than in Limuru: little food, no medicine, families crammed into dingy tents. The children have been unable to return to school.

Kenyan Baptist pastor Jecktone Owiso has been aiding people in the camp since the beginning of the crisis, when it was dangerous even to walk the streets in the area --- now scarred by burned-out shops and kiosks. Owiso leads a small church in nearby Kasabuni. Some of his own members were driven to the camp during the skirmishes.

Assisted by missionaries, he brought food and hope to the camp's residents, who include members of multiple tribes. He hopes to help them find new homes, medical care, schools for their children. But more than that, he challenges them to live in peace through Christ.

"I am Luo by tribe, but when I come here I have to be neutral, to bring a message of peace and tranquility," Owiso said.

One of the camp residents is Eunice, known as "Mama Sheila," who has six children. Despite an illness that confines her to a cot in her tent, she shares what little she has with other mothers and children in the camp. A Luo tribe member, Eunice was driven from her neighborhood, only a few blocks away, by hostile Kikuyus.

"Most of her things were taken away. She ran for her life to the police camp," Owiso said.

There she found faith in Christ through Owiso's ministry. On a recent visit, he went to Eunice's tent to check on her family's needs, then gathered camp residents under a shade tree for an impromptu worship service. They sang, swayed and clapped their hands. Owiso preached a message of reconciliation.

"Let us accept one another!" he appealed to the group. "Let us not see differences. Let us not see tribalism. Open wide your arms. You will give an account of your life to God, so don't worry about the people who do bad things --- even those who caused you to be in this camp. Are we accepting those who are ugly, who are not lovable? Even when we were lost in sin, Christ loved us and gave His life for us."

Heads nodded. Voices said, "Amen."

Later, Owiso reflected on the unity among the different people in the camp.

"I love these people," he said. "They have changed my heart. You see how they are open to the Word. I wish some of the tribal leaders could come to the camp and see how we love one another."

Perhaps that is the long-term answer for Kenya's troubles.
___________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 4, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 07, 2008, 02:06:20 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 4, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Burma Junta Still Stopping Aid
    * Egypt to Deport Eritrean Refugees
    * Algeria: Christians Guilty of Evangelizing
    * Baptists Contest Missionary Guidelines

 

Burma Junta Still Stopping Aid


According to the Mission News Network, the Myanmar junta has only promised to open up the country to aid. "The latest news that we've all seen in the media is that the country has opened up a bit more in the past week. I have not had any word that we have been able to get people in yet, but prior to that, assuming no one has gotten in, the situation up to that point was that we had people ready to go who were waiting in Thailand. But they could not get visas--the same thing that was holding back relief workers from many other places, many other agencies," said Lane Powell of Operation Mobilisation. OM's medical team is not yet allowed in, in spite of need. "They've already seen that cholera is spreading, dysentery, and of course they're seeing cases of malaria, too. So all of the disease we would expect in that situation are well under way," Powell said.

Egypt to Deport Eritrean Refugees

Egyptian authorities are to begin forced deportations of some 150 Eritrean prisoners currently held in Kanater prison in Cairo within a few days, ASSIST News Service reports. Christian Solidarity Worldwide's information indicates that these detainees, who originally fled from political and religious persecution in Eritrea, are among over 1,000 Eritreans held in Egyptian prisons. CSW says they have been denied access to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Egypt, despite being entitled to the treatment normally afforded to refugees. Their deportations are due to take place despite the fact that the UNHCR has a non-return advisory for Eritrean refugees. If deported, these prisoners will almost certainly face instant imprisonment, possible torture and even execution, CSW says.

Algeria: Christians Guilty of Evangelizing


Compass Direct News reports that an Algerian court gave four Christians suspended sentences and fines today for seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity, a Protestant church leader said. The case is one of several that have sparked local media and French government claims that Algeria is repressing its Christian minority, which numbers 10,000 according to conservative estimates. A court in Tiaret city, 150 miles southwest of Algiers, gave Rachid Muhammad Seghir a six-month suspended sentence and a 200,000-dinar (US$3,282) fine. He was originally charged with "distributing documents to shake the faith of Muslims." Three other men were given similar but reduced suspended sentences and fines, and two other men were acquitted.

Baptists Contest Missionary Guidelines


The Christian Post reports that 37 former Southern Baptist missionaries, former International Mission Board trustees and Southern Baptist pastors have signed a statement expressing their "strong" disagreement with a 2005 decision by the IMB trustees excludes from mission work candidates who speak in tongues, whether in public or private, and those not baptized by a proper administrator or fellow Baptist who believes in eternal security. "We are alarmed at the reports of the rejection of otherwise worthy candidates and reports of individuals who will now not even bother to apply to their own denomination's missions organization, lest these guidelines disqualify them," the statement, which was released Monday, says. Those signing argue the IMB's guidelines wander "far beyond the parameters" set by the Southern Baptist Convention's statement of faith.

___________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 5, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 07, 2008, 02:08:40 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 5, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China: Christians Detained for Sending Aid
    * Iran: Christians Released on Bail
    * Burma: GAiN rebuilds communities
    * UK: Religious Education an HR Violation

China: Christians Detained for Sending Aid

ASSIST News Service reports that officials from the Public Security Bureau (PSB) and Religious Affairs Bureau (RAB) disrupted the house church meeting and forcefully detained seven of the participants during a Sunday service at Taikang County, Henan Province, on June 1. China Aid Association (CAA) said that police officials did not state the reason for the detention. During interrogation, police officials questioned the members as to who would be taking donations to the earthquake disaster area. Six remain in detention under a charge of sending money to a disaster area in the name of a house church. Two Christians in Hua county, Henan province were detained under the charge of religious inciting on obstruction to earthquake relief work. One was released on June 2 after paying a 500Yuan penalty and gifts worth more than 4,000Yuan value to PSB officers. Another one is said to be released on June 3.

Iran: Christians Released on Bail

Compass Direct News reports that late yesterday afternoon authorities in Shiraz set free 21-year-old Mojtaba Hussein, charged with "activities against our holy religion," requiring a bail guarantee worth US$20,000. The same charge has been leveled against Hamoyon Shokohie Gholamzadeh, 58, another former Muslim arrested on May 11 along with three family members. But the charges against six other converts arrested with the men accuse them only of "activities against the country." Two other former Muslims arrested in a Shiraz park on May 13 remain jailed, their location and condition unknown. Another Christian convert arrested with his wife in late April elsewhere in Iran was ordered released three days ago after posting bail based on his home's worth. "This is the pattern they usually follow," said an Iranian pastor now living abroad. "They put them in jail for a few weeks, beat them, and put a lot of pressure on them to get information about the other converts."

Burma: GAiN rebuilds communities

According to the Mission News Network, Global Aid Network (GAiN) has committed to long-term rebuilding in Myanmar communities devastated by Cyclone Nargis, working with six villages desperately in need aid. GAiN will rebuild homes and schools in each village over the next months, and is training 40 local people to build water filtration system that use readily available natural materials. Ten systems will be installed in the next month, including one in each village. GAiN USA's water filtration expert and trainer commented, "The locals were so excited and so willing to work. It has been so good to work with them." The cyclone destroyed rice fields and contaminated the water supply of the Irrawaddy Delta region, and thousands of unrecovered bodies continue to putrefy water supplies.

UK: Religious Education an HR Violation

Though Christianity is the official religion of the United Kingdom, lawmakers and activists are working to extract religious activity in British schools, saying that teenagers' human rights are being violated. According to Cybercast News Service, students in most public schools are required to take religious education classes and participate in acts of collective worship. Many schools already neglect daily worship, and several exceptions apply to the requirement. Last month, a parliamentary human rights committee issued a report recommending that students below the age of 16 also be allowed to opt out of religious education classes and daily worship as long as they have "sufficient maturity, intelligence and understanding." The lawmakers said forcing a student to engage in these activities violated the European Convention on Human Rights, the report said.

_______________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 6, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 07, 2008, 02:10:51 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 6, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * US Split on Homosexuality as "Sin"
    * T. D. Jakes Embraces Obama
    * Donations Honor Maria Chapman
    * Mom Fights Church Ban on Autistic Son

 

US Split on Homosexuality as "Sin"

The Baptist Press reports that Americans hold differing opinions on the issue of homosexuality, including whether homosexual behavior is sinful. A telephone survey of 1,201 American adults conducted in April revealed that 48 percent of Americans believe homosexual behavior is sinful, while 45 percent say it's not, almost a statistical tie when considering the margin of error. Among those with a religious affiliation, 55 percent of Catholics and 31 percent of Protestants said they do not believe homosexual behavior is sinful. That number dropped to 17 percent among born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants. Holding opposing views, 39 percent of Catholics, 61 percent of Protestants and 79 percent of born-again, evangelical or fundamentalist Protestants said they do believe homosexual behavior is sinful.

T. D. Jakes Embraces Obama

Obama's candidacy has been met with mixed reviews, reports the Christian Post. Popular and influential Christian leader Bishop T.D. Jakes of megachurch The Potter's House in Dallas, Texas, expressed enthusiastic support for Obama as the Democratic nominee. He pointed to the victory as more than a racial victory, and a landmark for democracy and change. "I hope that we can somehow merge the best ideas of our differences and emerge with a president who epitomizes our highest and best ideals," Jakes wrote. Obama has strong support from the African American Christian community. Vision American President the Rev. Dr. Rick Scarborough, however, questions Obama's liberal history. "We don't know a lot about Sen. Obama's plans for America... What we do know is that, if elected, he would be the least experienced man to occupy the White House in at least the last 100 years."

Donations Honor Maria Chapman

Donations have poured into Shaohannah's Hope, Shaohannah's Hope, the adoption and orphan care ministry founded by music artist Steven Curtis Chapman and his wife, in sympathy for their daughter, Maria. The organization has raised over $310,000 toward Maria's Miracle Fund in just two weeks, the ministry announced Tuesday. The figures testify to the thousands who have contributed not only prayer but love offerings after the Chapmans' 5-year-old adopted daughter died on May 21, when she was accidentally struck by a car driven by her older brother. Chapman and his wife established Shaohannah's Hope in 2003 after adopting Shaohannah from China. The organization, based in Franklin, Tenn., helps reduce the financial burden of adoption by giving away grants to participating Christian couples. Over 1,600 families have benefited from grants averaging $3,000 from the ministry, according to The Associated Press

Mom Fights Church Ban on Autistic Son

The Associated Press reports that the mother of a 13-year-old autistic boy goes to court on Monday after violating the restraining order banning her son from Catholic mass. The Rev. Daniel Walz of Church of St. Joseph in northern Minnesota, where Carol Race brought her son Adam, says the boy - who is already more than 6 feet tall and weight more than 225 pounds - has hit a child, has nearly knocked over elderly parishioners while bolting from his pew, has spit at people and has urinated in the church. Race said Walz's claims are exaggerated, and that her son has never done any of those things. Jan Marrin, who is acting as a spokesperson for the parish, said the church board tried working with the Races to find "reasonable accommodations." That included offering a video feed of Mass that could be watched in the church basement. The Races refused all suggestions. "It's a difficult issue," Marrin said. "There are no easy answers."

_______________________________


Title: Thousands of Sudanese Flee New Conflict
Post by: nChrist on June 10, 2008, 02:21:11 AM
Thousands of Sudanese Flee New Conflict
Michael Ireland

June 9, 2008

SUDAN - Up to 80,000 Southern Sudanese residents of the disputed area of Abeyi (pronounced AH-BEE-AY) have fled their homes following a clash between the Khartoum government's Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Southern Sudanese Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA).

According to the Washington-DC based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org , Northern Sudanese troops have taken control of Abeyi in direct violation of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed between the North and South in 2005. The conflict has created a new humanitarian crisis in Sudan.

ICC says that fighting broke out on May 14, 2008, and continued for several days. According to eyewitness accounts, UN sources and the SPLA, Northern troops were responsible for sparking the conflict. Various reports indicate that 90 percent of the homes in Abeyi have been burned down and thousands of people have been displaced.

ICC reports that South Sudan officials are accusing Khartoum of displacing Southern Sudanese residents in order to bring in Northern Sudanese Arabs ahead of a referendum for the inhabitants of oil-rich Abeyi to decide whether to be part of North or South Sudan. When the civil war between North and South Sudan came to an end in 2005 with the signing of the CPA, it was agreed that the people of Abeyi would hold this referendum in 2011.

In a report obtained by ANS, ICC says the SAF is ignoring all its previous agreements and has begun ethnic cleansing in Abeyi by displacing all of the South Sudanese and moving in North Sudanese instead.

"Seventy to eighty thousand people are now living in the bush surrounding Abeyi. Kids, women, they need quick humanitarian help," reported Mr. Ruben Benjamin in an interview with ICC. Mr. Benjamin is the Deputy Head of Mission and Political Affairs Officer at the Mission of the Government of South Sudan in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Benjamin said that the US needs to act because "the United States is the engineer for the Abeyi protocol (provision of the CPA giving Abeyi self-determination). Therefore it has to take care of it."

ICC is asking concerned individuals to please act now to help the people of Abeyi. Mr. Benjamin is asking everyone who is concerned to go to www.house.gov to find the contact information for your elected officials and alert them to what is happening in Abeyi. Ask them to put pressure on the government of Sudan to withdraw its forces from Abeyi and respect all the terms of the agreement it made with the Southern Sudanese.

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises awareness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department. For additional information or for an interview, contact ICC at 800-422-5441.
____________________________


Title: Persecution Follows Somali Christians to Refuge
Post by: nChrist on June 10, 2008, 10:48:54 AM
Persecution Follows Somali Christians to Refuge
Tom Osanjo

NAIROBI, KENYA -- A while back, a group made up of acquaintances ransacked Abdi Razak's (not real name) house in a Nairobi suburb destroyed household property and beat up his wife and children, breaking the arm of his then 11 year old son in the process.

The 44 year old father of three's crime? He had decided to abandon the Islamic faith and embrace Christianity. And it is the lot of many of the Somalis who have become Christians as hostile family and friends subject them to intense persecution.

During our interview at a church compound in the Eastleigh Suburb of Nairobi, Abdi and his colleague Hassan (not real name) share tales of harassment that has followed them from their motherland of Somalia into the safe haven they ran to in Kenya.

Kenya, long considered a refuge for many from the war torn Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region, bore the brunt of refugees from Somalia when that country collapsed. The refugees find it easy to adapt because of shared kinship with Kenyan Somalis who occupy a whole province in the north eastern part of the country.

However, they count their troubles minor compared to the other converts who are still in Somalia. There discrimination, public humiliation and even death is the lot of those who choose to become Christians at the expense of the widely accepted Islam.

"From the time the government of Somalia collapsed in 1991 up to this year, we know of at least 34 people who have been killed because of their faith. The figures could be much higher because we are only talking about those known to us," Hassan says.

He cites the latest incident in April when two Britons of Somali extraction were killed by Somali militants in a school he was running in the war torn country. According to news wire reports, the 70-year-old man and 32-year-old woman were killed alongside two Kenyan teachers in the town of Belet Weyne, near the Ethiopian border. The bodies of the four victims, who are said to have been shot in the head, were discovered at the Hakab Private English School in the town. A resident in Belet Weyne claimed the attackers were from the group Al Shabab.

Al Shabab is an armed militant Islamist group that the US put on its list of foreign terrorist organizations in February, for what Washington says is links to al Qaeda. It is leading an insurgency against the Somali interim government and its Ethiopian military allies in the capital Mogadishu.

The press reports quoted Abdul-qadir Anshur Ali, nephew of the dead British man and a teacher at the same school saying: "(My uncle) came to the region to help its people learn something and now he is dead for no reason," said His uncle was married to a British woman and had two sons in Birmingham, he said.

Abdi and Hassan concur with the sentiments saying that despite the good work that the deceased was engaged in, his days were numbered because he was a Christian and the locals believed that the school was a fertile recruitment drive for new converts.

In 1991, the dictatorship of Siad Barre fell and Somalia has been a free fall ever since with warlords partitioning huge swathes of land for themselves where they run the show collecting illegal taxes, enforcing security and generally ordering the killings of rival militia.

Several attempts have been made, backed by the goodwill of the international community, to have some semblance of order prevail but to no avail. In 2000, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan was selected to lead the Transitional National Government (TNG). Four years later Abdullahi Yusuf was elected president.

But this did not go down well with all Somalis and in May 2006 the hitherto unknown Islamic Courts Union (ICU) started a serious fight with the other warlords, the TNG as well as their Ethiopian backers in a jihad aimed at introducing Sharia Law in Somalia. However, the superior military prowess of the Ethiopians carried the day and the ICU was vanquished.

Although chased out of town, the ICU still has some sympathizers and these are the people who have taken to harassing Christians. "After a meeting in Mogadishu in 2004, a section of radical sheikhs declared that they would hunt down converts even to other countries where they had fled. He reminded the supporters of their religious duty of killing those who abandoned Islam," Abdi says.

Pastor Simeon Mbevi of the Mavuno (Harvest) Church in Nairobi is one of the Kenyan church leaders who work closely with the Somali Christians and he believes that Christians all over the world should pray that TNG remains in power in that country because under it Christians are a bit better off.

"Whatever your political affiliation in Somalia, please let us pray that TNG stays in power because if the ICU prevails the situation will be worse for the few believers there," he recently told a prayer meeting in Nairobi. He has been to Somalia more than once to pray for that country.

The two refugees Abdi and Hassan agree stressing that because of the fear of attacks and threat to lives, it was not easy to know the exact number of believers in Somalia. "Most people practice their faith underground and you cannot talk much because you never know who will report you where and some even continue attending Friday prayers in the mosques so as not to raise suspicion," Hassan says.

Being in Kenya has eased things somewhat because here they are able to meet with fellow Somali Christians for worship and fellowship. Right now there are three venues open to them including the offices of a mission organization. The two estimate the total number of Somali believers from their country at about 30 while the figures for Kenyan Somalis could be higher.

Hassan says that the rule of law in Kenya has acted as a safety net to some extent although intense non physical harassment continues to be the order of the day. Cold stares in the streets, abuses hurled their way and at times being denied social inclusion in activities are the price they have to pay for their faith.

"My children cannot play with other Somali children because we are considered infidels. Many are the times when my wife's relatives have come to forcibly take her away but she has held on. Back at home I was never included in inheriting from my late father while my mother considers me dead," Abdi says.

Pastor Alex Njukia is an old Somalia hand in his secular work with an international development agency and he gives the context of the consequences of being ostracized by clan members.

"The clan plays a critical role in the lives of Somalis because whenever you have an issue to solve you run to the clan. They are in charge of weddings, funerals, raising money for hospital and almost any other matter. To be cast out by the clan means you are as good as dead and this is particularly true when you are a refugee in another country," he says.

Both Hassan and Abdi have resigned to the reality that they will live in foreign lands for the rest of their lives because going back to Somalia even if the security situation improved, would be a death sentence.

Abdi, a trained caterer in Somali gourmet, is forced to live on hand outs from well wishers because no self respecting Somali hotel owner would hire a 'non-believer' to cook for the guests. This way of life, he says, is very unpredictable because he has four mouths to feed.

Hassan also relies more on remittances from relatives living in the West but to supplement his income he has a part time job as a Somali language tutor for missionaries and others interested in it.

They can't hold formal jobs because as refugees the Kenyan government cannot give them work permits and although they are not stating it, their lot would improve greatly if they could get asylum or citizenship in a more developed country.

"I have lost my family, my inheritance and my identity with my people. But I have gained one of the most valuable things in this life and the life to come, that is the Lord Jesus Christ," Abdi declares.
___________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 10, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 10, 2008, 10:50:38 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 10, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China: House Church Crackdown Intensifies
    * Gay Bishop Enters into Civil Union
    * Jordan: Marriage of 'Apostate' Annulled
    * Church of England Blasts British Gov.

 

China: House Church Crackdown Intensifies

Though the Chinese government has always persecuted house churches, a new reports indicates that the approaching Bejing Olympics have unleashed the first systematic crackdown, the Christian Post reports. The report, called "China: Persecution of Protestant Christians in the Approach to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games" by U.K.-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide and U.S.-based China Aid Association, documents governmental funding to the Ministry of Public Security for a campaign to eradicate house churches throughout China. Tactics used to crack down on unregistered Christians include: targeting well-established unregistered churches; sending landlords directives ordering them to not rent space to those engaging in religious activities; charging Christians in the Xinjiang region of separatism; expelling foreign Christians; targeting repression at the Chinese House Church Alliance; and carrying out the largest mass sentencing of house church leaders in 25 years.

Gay Bishop Enters into Civil Union

Reuters reports that the Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly homosexual U.S. Episcopal bishop who catalyzed the Anglican church's global battle over homosexuality, has entered into a civil union with his longtime partner. Robinson and his partner of more than 19 years, Mark Andrew, held the private ceremony in St. Paul's Church in New Hampshire Saturday. "It was absolutely joyful," Mike Barwell, Robinson's spokesman said by telephone. "A lot of his supporters and friends were there, including many members of the gay and lesbian community." The Episcopal Church consecrated Robinson in 2003 as the first bishop known to be in an openly homosexual relationship in more than four centuries of church history. He has been excluded from the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference but plans to attend as an outside observer.

Jordan: Marriage of 'Apostate' Annulled

Compass Direct News reports that the North Amman Sharia Court in Jordan in April dissolved the marriage of Mohammad Abbad, on trial for apostasy. "Marriage depends on the creed [religion], and the apostate has no creed," a May 22 court document stated, detailing reasons for the April 22 marriage annulment. The 40-year-old convert to Christianity fled Jordan with his wife and two young children in March after another Christian convert's relatives attacked Abbad's family in their home and his father demanded custody of Abbad's children. Jordan's penal code does not outlaw apostasy, and the country's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, as does the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that was given force of law in the country in June 2006. But Islam, Jordan's official religion, forbids conversion to another faith.

Church of England Blasts British Gov.

According to a story by Britain's Press Association, ASSIST News Service reports, sources say a highly critical study by the Church of England accuses the British governments of Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown of focusing "intently" on minority faiths, while neglecting the Church of England. As a result, discrimination against the Christian faith has taken hold. The study accuses the British Government of ignoring the breakdown in society, and failing to recognize the Church's potential contribution to public affairs. In contrast, the Press Association said, the study, titled "Moral, But No Compass," praises the Conservatives for what it calls their "strident" plans to tackle poverty. It calls for a minister for religion to be appointed, and accuses the government of "religious illiteracy."
_________________________


Title: Persecution Follows Somali Christians to Refuge
Post by: nChrist on June 11, 2008, 07:21:10 AM
Persecution Follows Somali Christians to Refuge
Tom Osanjo

NAIROBI, KENYA -- A while back, a group made up of acquaintances ransacked Abdi Razak's (not real name) house in a Nairobi suburb destroyed household property and beat up his wife and children, breaking the arm of his then 11 year old son in the process.

The 44 year old father of three's crime? He had decided to abandon the Islamic faith and embrace Christianity. And it is the lot of many of the Somalis who have become Christians as hostile family and friends subject them to intense persecution.

During our interview at a church compound in the Eastleigh Suburb of Nairobi, Abdi and his colleague Hassan (not real name) share tales of harassment that has followed them from their motherland of Somalia into the safe haven they ran to in Kenya.

Kenya, long considered a refuge for many from the war torn Horn of Africa and Great Lakes Region, bore the brunt of refugees from Somalia when that country collapsed. The refugees find it easy to adapt because of shared kinship with Kenyan Somalis who occupy a whole province in the north eastern part of the country.

However, they count their troubles minor compared to the other converts who are still in Somalia. There discrimination, public humiliation and even death is the lot of those who choose to become Christians at the expense of the widely accepted Islam.

"From the time the government of Somalia collapsed in 1991 up to this year, we know of at least 34 people who have been killed because of their faith. The figures could be much higher because we are only talking about those known to us," Hassan says.

He cites the latest incident in April when two Britons of Somali extraction were killed by Somali militants in a school he was running in the war torn country. According to news wire reports, the 70-year-old man and 32-year-old woman were killed alongside two Kenyan teachers in the town of Belet Weyne, near the Ethiopian border. The bodies of the four victims, who are said to have been shot in the head, were discovered at the Hakab Private English School in the town. A resident in Belet Weyne claimed the attackers were from the group Al Shabab.

Al Shabab is an armed militant Islamist group that the US put on its list of foreign terrorist organizations in February, for what Washington says is links to al Qaeda. It is leading an insurgency against the Somali interim government and its Ethiopian military allies in the capital Mogadishu.

The press reports quoted Abdul-qadir Anshur Ali, nephew of the dead British man and a teacher at the same school saying: "(My uncle) came to the region to help its people learn something and now he is dead for no reason," said His uncle was married to a British woman and had two sons in Birmingham, he said.

Abdi and Hassan concur with the sentiments saying that despite the good work that the deceased was engaged in, his days were numbered because he was a Christian and the locals believed that the school was a fertile recruitment drive for new converts.

In 1991, the dictatorship of Siad Barre fell and Somalia has been a free fall ever since with warlords partitioning huge swathes of land for themselves where they run the show collecting illegal taxes, enforcing security and generally ordering the killings of rival militia.

Several attempts have been made, backed by the goodwill of the international community, to have some semblance of order prevail but to no avail. In 2000, Abdiqasim Salad Hassan was selected to lead the Transitional National Government (TNG). Four years later Abdullahi Yusuf was elected president.

But this did not go down well with all Somalis and in May 2006 the hitherto unknown Islamic Courts Union (ICU) started a serious fight with the other warlords, the TNG as well as their Ethiopian backers in a jihad aimed at introducing Sharia Law in Somalia. However, the superior military prowess of the Ethiopians carried the day and the ICU was vanquished.

Although chased out of town, the ICU still has some sympathizers and these are the people who have taken to harassing Christians. "After a meeting in Mogadishu in 2004, a section of radical sheikhs declared that they would hunt down converts even to other countries where they had fled. He reminded the supporters of their religious duty of killing those who abandoned Islam," Abdi says.

Pastor Simeon Mbevi of the Mavuno (Harvest) Church in Nairobi is one of the Kenyan church leaders who work closely with the Somali Christians and he believes that Christians all over the world should pray that TNG remains in power in that country because under it Christians are a bit better off.

"Whatever your political affiliation in Somalia, please let us pray that TNG stays in power because if the ICU prevails the situation will be worse for the few believers there," he recently told a prayer meeting in Nairobi. He has been to Somalia more than once to pray for that country.

The two refugees Abdi and Hassan agree stressing that because of the fear of attacks and threat to lives, it was not easy to know the exact number of believers in Somalia. "Most people practice their faith underground and you cannot talk much because you never know who will report you where and some even continue attending Friday prayers in the mosques so as not to raise suspicion," Hassan says.

Being in Kenya has eased things somewhat because here they are able to meet with fellow Somali Christians for worship and fellowship. Right now there are three venues open to them including the offices of a mission organization. The two estimate the total number of Somali believers from their country at about 30 while the figures for Kenyan Somalis could be higher.

Hassan says that the rule of law in Kenya has acted as a safety net to some extent although intense non physical harassment continues to be the order of the day. Cold stares in the streets, abuses hurled their way and at times being denied social inclusion in activities are the price they have to pay for their faith.

"My children cannot play with other Somali children because we are considered infidels. Many are the times when my wife's relatives have come to forcibly take her away but she has held on. Back at home I was never included in inheriting from my late father while my mother considers me dead," Abdi says.

Pastor Alex Njukia is an old Somalia hand in his secular work with an international development agency and he gives the context of the consequences of being ostracized by clan members.

"The clan plays a critical role in the lives of Somalis because whenever you have an issue to solve you run to the clan. They are in charge of weddings, funerals, raising money for hospital and almost any other matter. To be cast out by the clan means you are as good as dead and this is particularly true when you are a refugee in another country," he says.

Both Hassan and Abdi have resigned to the reality that they will live in foreign lands for the rest of their lives because going back to Somalia even if the security situation improved, would be a death sentence.

Abdi, a trained caterer in Somali gourmet, is forced to live on hand outs from well wishers because no self respecting Somali hotel owner would hire a 'non-believer' to cook for the guests. This way of life, he says, is very unpredictable because he has four mouths to feed.

Hassan also relies more on remittances from relatives living in the West but to supplement his income he has a part time job as a Somali language tutor for missionaries and others interested in it.

They can't hold formal jobs because as refugees the Kenyan government cannot give them work permits and although they are not stating it, their lot would improve greatly if they could get asylum or citizenship in a more developed country.

"I have lost my family, my inheritance and my identity with my people. But I have gained one of the most valuable things in this life and the life to come, that is the Lord Jesus Christ," Abdi declares.
___________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 11, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 11, 2008, 07:23:34 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 11, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Zimbabwe Police Raid Christian Offices
    * Gender, Membership Issues at SBC
    * Anglican Bishop Warns Breakaway Clergy
    * Georgia: World Vision Gives Dairy Cows

 

Zimbabwe Police Raid Christian Offices

ASSIST News Service reports that five staff members have been taken away for questioning and another assaulted in a raid by riot police on the offices in Harare, Zimbabwe, of the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance (ZCA), a partner organization of UK relief agency Tearfund. Those taken away were questioned at Harare Central police Station. Useni Sibanda, National Coordinator for the ZCA said, "This is pure harassment of church organizations. We are just doing our usual work and we don't understand why we should be attacked by riot police like this." During the raid the police confiscated papers including the March edition of the ZCA newsletter. It is understood that no charges have yet been brought. A lawyer from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is in Harare to represent those detained. This raid follows the regime's confrontation with diplomats last week and the increased intimidation of civil society groups.

Gender, Membership Issues at SBC

According to OneNewsNow, the results of a LifeWay Research study will be presented at this year's Southern Baptist Convention, which finds that only 26 percent of its pastors and eight percent of its lay people have training to help counsel those struggling with same-sex attraction. Bob Stith, with SBC's "The Way Out" program, said, "I hear from people everyday in our churches who are afraid to talk to their pastors, afraid to talk to their leadership [about same-sex attraction] -- and we need to change that culture." Meanwhile, the Christian Post reports that outgoing SBC president Frank Page urged members to be honest about declining membership and baptisms. Page has predicted that the number of Southern Baptist churches will fall by half by 2030 unless the denomination makes major changes, and urges members to take responsibility. "The truth is individuals and churches are the ones who are in decline. And we must deal with reality," Page said at the annual meeting.

Anglican Bishop Warns Breakaway Clergy

The Anglican Journal reports that the New Westminster diocese in Vancouver has effectively banned five breakaway clergy from their previous parish property and leadership. Bishop Michael Ingham from the Anglican Church of Canada warned the five that they may not exercise ministry at their churches, are considered to be trespassing if they are on the property and may not remove anything, including books. Several parishes voted to leave the Canadian church in February over theological disagreements, including the blessing of same-sex unions. The parishes' clergy gave letters declaring that, although they relinquished their licensing, they planned to remain in their churches with the support of their congregations. Bishop Ingham said the diocese intends to "act legally to retain all property and assets belonging to these parishes and to the diocese" since schism, which is the "setting up of unlawful authority," cannot be allowed to stand.

Georgia: World Vision Gives Dairy Cows

ASSIST News Service reports that dairy cows donated to 47 of the most food insecure households in Khashmi village in the Kakheti region of eastern Georgia will help alleviate the struggle for food and nutrition, thanks to a World Vision and Heifer International Food Security Enhancement (FSE) initiative. 20 cows were bought through World Vision's Gifts in Kind project 'Livestock for Vulnerable Families' and the other 27 were provided by Heifer International. These households were chosen from a village population of some 1,537 people. "We don't have cattle in our family so for me it is a huge support; I cannot even express it in words. Before I had to buy diary products for my grandchildren, and I could rarely afford them. Now my children will have cheese and other products," said 60-year-old Mary, who received one of the dairy cows.

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Title: India: Orissa Christians Still Targeted after Attacks
Post by: nChrist on June 14, 2008, 12:16:31 AM
India: Orissa Christians Still Targeted after Attacks
Vishal Arora

Victims of Christmas season violence in Kandhamal face threats and ostracism.

June 12, 2008

NEW DELHI -- Still struggling to rebuild their homes and lives after suffering large-scale attacks last Christmas season, Christians in Orissa state's Kandhamal district continue to face ostracism and threats from Hindu nationalists.

Returning from Orissa on Friday (June 6), the secretary general of the All India Christian Council (AICC) said life is far from normal more than five months after violence in Kandhamal last Christmas season that killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches.

"Christians who had started making a life for themselves through running shops and self-employment were particular targets -- they are still being socially boycotted," Dr. John Dayal told Compass. "Even now, many girls cannot go to school for fear of molestation after threats have been issued to Christians."

According to an AICC report, intolerant Hindu leaders in three villages near Barakhama -- Salagud, Madagudami, and Perbapanga -- have ostracized Christian families. The Christians are barred from collecting firewood or food from the surrounding jungles and buying from and selling anything in local stores.

"This means they must travel long distances to buy construction materials" to rebuild their homes destroyed in the attacks, the report states. "Not only do they have to spend more money for travel but also for bricks and other supplies."

Followers of Laxmananda Saraswati, a Hindu nationalist leader widely believed to have incited the Christmas attacks, forcibly took 26 Christians to a police station near Kurder village on May 21, according to the report. Police detained the Christians, releasing them only after friends enlisted the aid of the district sub-collector, or deputy administrative head.

The followers of Saraswati also stole two cows belonging to the Christians. The Christians had just bought cattle and were passing by a rally organized by Saraswati when the Hindu nationalists apprehended them.

Disappointed in Government Response

Dayal said he was "deeply disappointed and saddened" by the "lethargic and insensitive, almost inhuman, response" of the federal and the state governments in the Kandhamal crisis.

"The monsoons are setting in, and up to 400 families are without a roof over their heads," he said. "The Orissa government has been doling out money in driblets."

Grants for destroyed houses are 50,000 rupees (US$1,165), and no more than half of that total for partially damaged homes.

"But half-burnt houses cannot be rebuilt," he added. "They have to be razed to the ground and built from scratch, and the government does not recognize this."

The cost of rebuilding a house is at least 85,000 rupees (about US$2,000), he estimated. "This means unless the dole is raised, the victims will have half-built houses when the rains come," Dayal said. "There is no option but to move the courts to get the government to give the money."

Dayal added that apart from the cost of construction of houses, the victims of the violence have lost a half a year of income. "Half a year of labor has been lost, there is no livelihood," he said.

Dire Camp Conditions

Many victims are still in the jungles fearing further physical attack, while hundreds of displaced Christians in Kandhamal remain in various relief camps set up by the state government.

Relief camp conditions are dire, with malaria running rampant. Dayal said that after contracting malaria, a 16-year-old Christian girl who was apparently 16 weeks pregnant had a miscarriage in Barakhama refugee camp. Rashmi, daughter of Suniya Digal of Tikarbari village, had come to the camp with her parents after her house was burned in the Christmas week violence and her husband had fled.

The disease along with the strong anti-malarial drug she was prescribed led to complications and the miscarriage, Dayal said.

"When [human rights activist] Teesta Setalvad  was visiting the Barakhama camp and saw Rashmi, she knew the girl was not well," said Dayal, who was in Kandhamal with Setalvad for an independent tribunal that heard testimony of victims on May 13 and 15. "She called and asked me to rush her to a hospital, saying she was on the brink of septicemia, or blood poisoning, unless a gynecologist examined her immediately and evacuated the remains of her pregnancy."

The four-member tribunal consisted of former High Court Justice Hospet Suresh and Justice Kolse Patil, former Gujarat director general of police R.B. Sreekumar, and Setalvad. The tribunal has yet to release its report.

A government panel to investigate the Christmas season violence, the Justice Panigrahi Enquiry commission, will begin a probe on Saturday (June 14).

The National Commission for Minorities, which sent two researchers to Kandhamal district, reported on January 17 that the violence was "organized and pre-planned." The team attributed the large-scale violence to the inaction of the administration. Dayal also led a fact-finding team in January that also concluded the violence was carried out in a planned manner.

Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) groups, mainly the extremist Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council), carried out the attacks under the pretext of avenging an alleged assault on Saraswati after the first anti-Christian incident was reported from Brahmanigaon village.
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Title: Sri Lanka Floods Leave 400,000 Homeless
Post by: nChrist on June 14, 2008, 12:18:11 AM
Sri Lanka Floods Leave 400,000 Homeless
Gospel for Asia

SRI LANKA (ANS) -- More than 400,000 people have been driven from their homes by unusually heavy monsoon floods on the island of Sri Lanka. The continuous, torrential rains have killed at least 20 people, left hundreds of homes destroyed and rendered thousands of others unlivable.

In response, Gospel for Asia's Compassion Services teams are moving to bring relief and hope to the battered survivors of the floodwaters.

The deluge flooded large areas of Sri Lanka. Some 83,000 families have been left homeless in seven districts.

GFA rushed emergency funds to the island to begin relief operations, but GFA President K.P. Yohannan said the suffering of the people is so great that much more will be quickly needed.

Despite restrictive laws that have made it harder for GFA missionaries to move around on the island, the GFA relief teams immediately mobilized to bring help and hope to the hard-hit people of their country.

"We are moving quickly to distribute rice, coconuts and other essential food items to the flood victims," a GFA field correspondent wrote, "and we will bring medical assistance soon."

The teams currently have supplies for 150 families, and they hope to be able to reach many more of the thousands who are living in heavy downpours without shelter because of the floods.

To add even more pain to their plight, fighting in Sri Lanka's ongoing ethnic conflict is again on the rise, with some 7,000 people forced into refugee camps in the eastern part of the country. For those who survive the dual assault of nature and human conflict, staying alive is almost as difficult a task as burying their loved ones.

Not only have fields been flooded and are now useless, there is an ever-present danger of stray bullets, mines and suicide bombings in the heightening conflict between Sri Lanka's government and the ethnic Tamil rebels.

Yohannan encouraged Christians around the world to pray for the people of Sri Lanka and to send immediate help for the relief ministry on the island.

"Through these tragedies, God always works in people's hearts in an amazing way," he noted. "As Christians, we not only are called upon to bring food, clothing and shelter in the name of Jesus--which we are doing--but we also have the Word that points the way to abundant life now and forever. Our GFA Compassion Services teams are sharing both.

"Just think of the impact of sharing the love and hope found in Jesus Christ with those who have lost everything in this monsoon flooding," Yohannan said. "It is a tremendous opportunity in the midst of this terrible tragedy."
________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 12, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 14, 2008, 12:20:02 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 12, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Turkey: Murder Suspects Accuse Each Other
    * Southern Baptists Elect 'Peacemaker'
    * Turkey: Church Fights to Keep Doors Open
    * Obama Meets with Evangelical Leaders


Turkey: Murder Suspect Accuse Each Other

Compass Direct News reports that all seven suspects on trial for the brutal murder of three Christians in Turkey in April 2007 appeared in court Tuesday -- each one protesting his innocence and incriminating one or more of the others. The hearing in eastern Turkey marked the first time all seven have appeared together in court to be cross-examined over contradictions among their individual court testimonies. In addition to the five accused murderers -- Hamit Ceker, Cuma Ozdemir, Abuzer Yildirim, Salih Gurler and Emre Gunaydin -- two others, Kursat Kocadag and Mehmet Gokce, face charges as accomplices. Turkish Christians Necati Aydin and Ugur Yuksel and German Christian Tilmann Geske were tied up, stabbed and tortured for several hours before their throats were slit at Zirve Publishing offices. Four of the suspects have said they were afraid of Gunaydin because of his alleged connections with local police and mafia figures, coupled with his violent threats against them and their families if they tried to pull out of the plot.

Southern Baptists Elect 'Peacemaker'

The Associated Press reports that the Rev. Johnny M. Hunt, the pastor of an Atlanta area megachurch, has been elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention, taking leadership of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S. The Rev. Benjamin Cole, an associate pastor in Enid, Okla., who championed former president Rev. Frank Page's election, said that Hunt is a "passionate catalyst... I don't think there's any question he genuinely loves Southern Baptists and the world around him and wants to connect them in a way that brings them together." Malcolm Yarnell, a professor at Southwestern Baptist Seminary in Fort Worth, voiced similar hopes. "Johnny is not going to be the type that brings divisions. He tends to avoid big theological controversies. He's not the type to point a finger at somebody. He's more likely to point a finger at himself and exhort the rest of us."

Turkey: Church Fights to Keep Doors Open

According to human rights group International Christian Concern, a church in the Turkish capital of Ankara is being forced to close its doors by local government. ASSIST News Service reports that Batikent Protestant Church is one of the very few Protestant churches which have been legally recognized in Turkey after winning a series of precedent-setting court cases. On June 2, however, police officers served the pastor with a notice requiring the closing because it is meeting in a building unapproved as a place of worship. Daniel Wickwire, the founding pastor at Batikent Protestant Church, has already fought - and won - a legal battle over zoning code violations last year. Wickwire, a missionary for 23 years, said, "It is very obvious that what is happening to our church is a pre-meditated, continuous and jointly orchestrated direct attack against the church as a whole in Turkey by the right-wing Islamic government (AK Party) that is currently in control in Turkey." Wickwire has been involved in over 15 court cases in the last 6 years in order to keep the church doors open.

Obama Meets with Evangelical Leaders

Barack Obama held a private meeting with several evangelical leaders Tuesday, according to the Washington Post. Conversation topics included Darfur, the Iraq war, gay rights, abortion and other issues. The meeting included Bishop T.D. Jakes, pastor of a Dallas megachurch, Rev. Franklin Graham, and about 28 other Christian leaders left unnamed because of the meeting's private nature. Rich Cizik, vice president for governmental affairs of the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organization for evangelical churches and ministries, said Obama asked participants to share "anything that's on your mind that is of concern to you." Cizik continued, "I think it's important to point out this isn't a group of people who are endorsing Obama... People were asked for their insider wisdom and understanding of the religious community." Meanwhile, the Christian Post reports that Obama's campaign has announced plans for "The Joshua Generation Project," which will aim to court young evangelicals and Catholics on moral issues such as poverty, Darfur, climate change and the Iraq war, although Obama's pro-abortion stance is expected to keep some at bay.

__________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 13, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 14, 2008, 12:21:52 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 13, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world

In today's edition:

    * Christian Groups Respond to Midwest Flooding
    * China: Not So Open a Month after Quake
    * Zimbabwe: Church Groups in Danger 'At Any Time'
    * McCain Meets with Greek Orthodox, Not SBC

 

Christian Groups Respond to Midwest Flooding

After weekend downpours of up to 10 inches, severe flooding in several Midwest states has crippled many communities as relief begins to trickle in, the Christian Post reports. Bob Babcock, the South Indiana Annual (regional) Conference's disaster response coordinator, told the United Methodist News Service on Tuesday that by his estimates only five percent of residents affected had flood insurance. The United Methodists in Indiana have received $10,000 in emergency grants from the United Methodist Committee on Relief this week to help residents, and other Indiana churches have volunteered to serve as a clothing site and an emergency responder post, and many are working closely with the Red Cross. Christian relief group Feed the Hungry sent a semi truck full of canned food, dry soup cups, noodles, crackers, cookies, and other eatable items.

China on Alert for Unrest a Month after Quake

According to the Associated Press, public anger over the deaths of thousands of schoolchildren killed in last month's earthquake continues to simmer in China, while authorities increasingly avoid open communication. Parents have demanded investigations to determine whether poor construction -- primarily a lack of steel reinforcement bars -- are responsible for the collapse of about 7,000 classrooms in areas where other buildings were relatively unaffected, contributing to their children's deaths. Now, police are cordoning off those schools from parents who regularly hold vigils there, as well as restricting media coverage after promises of open doors.

Zimbabwe: Church Groups in Danger 'At Any Time'

The Catholic News Service reports that Zimbabwean church groups are "in danger of police interference at any time," Alouis Chaumba, head of Zimbabwe's Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace, said after the Ecumenical Center in the capital, Harare, was raided June 9. "No one is immune to these raids." Chaumba said he is "afraid of what may happen to me and my family and my friends," noting that he knows many people who have been injured or had their property destroyed in the violence that followed late-March elections. The Center houses a variety of groups, including the Student Christian Movement of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Christian Alliance. Five staffers were arrested by heavily armed members of the police, central intelligence and military personnel in the raid. The country faces increased police activity in the fact of a "break-or-make" presidential runoff election scheduled for June 27.

McCain Meets with Greek Orthodox, Not SBC

The Christian Post reports that Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain had his own share of faith-based courting - and overlooking - on Tuesday when he met with the country's highest ranking Greek Orthodox leader. The private meeting with Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Church in America continued a conversation from last June, as the two talked about religious freedom, human rights, and social issues. "Senator McCain is an honorable American who has demonstrated his heroism and love for this country," said the archbishop, who does not endorse political candidates. Meanwhile, McCain has not followed the Bush-Cheney tradition of hosting a reception for Southern Baptist pastors during their annual meeting, a gathering of 7,200, leading some to wonder if McCain wants their vote. McCain has said his faith is not a campaign issue, but deeply private.

___________________________


Title: Islamists Receive Life Sentences for Ethiopia Church Attacks
Post by: nChrist on June 16, 2008, 12:07:58 PM
Islamists Receive Life Sentences for Ethiopia Church Attacks
Peter Lamprecht

June 16, 2008

ISTANBUL -- In a snap ruling that surprised local Christians, an Ethiopian court has sentenced three Muslim men to life imprisonment for a deadly machete attack on two churches last March.

At the initial hearing on March 26, the West Arsi Zone Higher Court handed down four sentences -- life in prison for three attackers, and a three-month suspended sentence for an accomplice -- for the March 2 assault in south Ethiopia that killed one and injured 17. The victims' families said they had been told the hearing would take place on April 25 and only learned of the sentencing after their right to appeal had expired.

"Usually, cases will take months and years to pass such a sentence, but this one was dramatically ended so fast and secretly," said one observer in Addis Ababa.

Christians from Nensebo Chebi village, 240 miles south of Addis Ababa, overcame bureaucratic red-tape to appeal the verdict out of concern over the "secretive" way the case had been handled.

Of another 17 people initially arrested for the attack in the Muslim-majority area, six remain in prison while the rest have reportedly been set free. Local Christians said they have been refused information regarding whether these people will be tried.

Three local Muslim officials arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack are now back in their government positions even as a separate investigation against them continues, local Christians said.

"The appeal's objective is to get the attention of higher officials," said the observer. "The church members are afraid that if it is not seriously handled, then in the near future it can be taken to a [local] government body to give parole or pardon for the [local]."

The court in Shashemene city handed life sentences to the three Muslims at the March 26 hearing for the attack in Nensebo Chebi. Gemeda Beriso, 20, Kedir Beriso, 20, and Keyrudin Muhammad, 19, were convicted of "deliberate brutal killing."

Judges Ashenafi Tesfay, Haji Shalo and Bejiga Kefeni found a fourth Muslim man guilty of cooperating with the criminals. ubgone86i Kuma Ngero was given a suspended three-month jail sentence based on his need to remain free to care for his 12 children, the verdict noted. Ngero will only serve time if convicted of another crime within the next two years.

During the Sunday morning attack on March 2, men wielding knives and machetes simultaneously broke into two churches, half an hour's walk apart from each other, and began hacking worshippers. One man died instantly from a machete blow to his neck while two others lost hands, and another 15 people sustained wounds on their necks, legs, arms, shoulders and backs.

The four men convicted of the crime reportedly confessed while in police custody to attacking the Kale Hiwot and Birhane Wongel Baptist churches. Survivors said that during the attack the assailants cried, "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "Allah is greater."

Having only learned of the verdict on April 13, church leaders faced a number of irregularities in their attempts to appeal, local sources said.

The Christians immediately traveled to Shashemene, where court officials appeared unaware that a ruling had taken place. The court registrar, who typically files all court documents, did not have a copy of the verdict. It was eventually found in the hands of the state prosecutor.

"What we have seen in the court office tells us that there was a deliberate action to stop us from appealing and taking it to the highest level for better treatment," a local Christian said.

The Christians also faced difficulties appealing the case to a higher court in Addis Ababa because the 15-day period for making an initial complaint had passed. But after citing extenuating circumstances, including the Christians having been unaware of the hearing and having been preoccupied with caring for the wounded, an Addis Ababa prosecutor accepted the appeal.

Official Involvement in Attack

Christian sources have named three local Muslim officials they believe instigated the attack.

Hussein Beriso, house speaker of the Nensebo District Council, forced church members at gunpoint to bury the murdered victim, Tula Mosisa, just hours after the attack, Christian sources from the area said. After Christian leaders protested, security forces exhumed the body and sent it to Awasa for an autopsy.

Local Christians have also accused Beriso of buying and distributing machetes for men involved in the church attacks. They said that Beriso had made public comments against Christians in February, warning the village's Muslims to resist any attempts to convince them to leave Islam.

Located in the predominantly Muslim Oromiya state, both Baptist churches have members who converted from Islam to Christianity.

Christian sources also named Nensebo district militia leaders Zerihun Tilahun and Sheik Kedir as having instigated the violence.

A Christian district politician who attempted to expose the role of these three men in the attacks has been removed from his position, a local source said. Getahun Bekele, Nensebo district deputy administrator, was fired in May ostensibly for being unable to "mobilize the public for development endeavors," the source said. But Christians suspect the real motivation for his dismissal was his attempt to report Hussein Beriso's involvement in the church attack to his superiors.

"In the meeting he exposed his colleagues for their failure to fulfill their duties to prevent the March 2 incident," one Christian said. "We feel [local] is deposed just because he spoke in favor of us."

Federal Police spokesman Cmdr. Demsash Hailu declined to comment regarding the investigation against the three local officials suspected of involvement in the attack.
__________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 16, 2008, 12:10:01 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Teens Flocking to Summer Missions
    * India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas
    * Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage' to Church
    * Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities

 

Teens Flocking to Summer Missions

The Modesto Bee reports that thousands of teens will participate in short-term mission trips in the next weeks, and religion scholars estimate that about three million 13- to 17-year-old young Christians nationwide will serve on mission team this year. Youth mission trips have only become common in the last 10-20 years. While some are encouraged by this new phenomenon, however, others question the true impact of these trips. Lakewood Church youth pastor Tom Elmore, who will lead a group of about 50 to Honduras, says, "That's where they get their first taste" of evangelism and being the hands and feet of Jesus. In contrast, David Livermore, author of "Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence," say these trips have  become a rite of passage, benefiting team members more than the community they're supposed to be serving.

India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas

In December, Hindu nationalists burned 730 Christian homes and 95 churches in India's Orissa state, killing four Christians. Now, six months later, Mission News Network reports that many of those whose homes burned are still homeless. "This is just a real hot-bed of persecution against Christians by the Hindu nationalists," said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors. Dykstra said the number of attacks on Christians in India numbered more than 1,000 for the first time in 2007 since the country became independent in 1947. Government money to rebuild has been slow in coming, partially because of societal prejudice. Meanwhile, Christians are "being ostracized, so then they cannot earn a living in that community. Because of threats against them and their families, some of the children cannot go to school," said Dykstra. Currently, many wait in malaria-ravaged camps until they can rebuild.

Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage'

According to the Christian Post, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California now directly encourages same-sex couples to seek a church union. The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus released a letter on Monday urging clergy to encourage all couples - including same-sex couples - to seek the blessing of the Episcopal Church as the California diocese works for the "full inclusion" of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. Last September the Episcopal Church decided not to authorize public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions, at least not until a broader consensus emerges in the global Anglican Communion or the Episcopal General Convention takes a definitive stance. "Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God," Andrus said in his letter.

Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities

Minority Christians and Muslims alike face increasing intolerance as religious minorities, the Christian Post reports. "This (religious tolerance) is a situation you don't have in many other countries with Muslim majorities, but tolerance is now under attack," said Catholic priest Franz Magnis, a German-born Jesuit priest and long-term resident, according to Reuters. In general, Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - is considered as tolerant of Christians and other religious minorities. Reports, however, show that more than 100 churches have been closed in Indonesia by attacks from radical Muslim groups or by local governments, according to Compass Direct News. The Muslim sec Ahmadiyya, which many Muslims deem heretical, has also faced increased attacks on mosques in recent months.
______________________________


Title: Islamists Receive Life Sentences for Ethiopia Church Attacks
Post by: nChrist on June 17, 2008, 11:03:18 AM
Islamists Receive Life Sentences for Ethiopia Church Attacks
Peter Lamprecht


June 16, 2008

ISTANBUL -- In a snap ruling that surprised local Christians, an Ethiopian court has sentenced three Muslim men to life imprisonment for a deadly machete attack on two churches last March.

At the initial hearing on March 26, the West Arsi Zone Higher Court handed down four sentences -- life in prison for three attackers, and a three-month suspended sentence for an accomplice -- for the March 2 assault in south Ethiopia that killed one and injured 17. The victims' families said they had been told the hearing would take place on April 25 and only learned of the sentencing after their right to appeal had expired.

"Usually, cases will take months and years to pass such a sentence, but this one was dramatically ended so fast and secretly," said one observer in Addis Ababa.

Christians from Nensebo Chebi village, 240 miles south of Addis Ababa, overcame bureaucratic red-tape to appeal the verdict out of concern over the "secretive" way the case had been handled.

Of another 17 people initially arrested for the attack in the Muslim-majority area, six remain in prison while the rest have reportedly been set free. Local Christians said they have been refused information regarding whether these people will be tried.

Three local Muslim officials arrested on suspicion of involvement in the attack are now back in their government positions even as a separate investigation against them continues, local Christians said.

"The appeal's objective is to get the attention of higher officials," said the observer. "The church members are afraid that if it is not seriously handled, then in the near future it can be taken to a [local] government body to give parole or pardon for the [local]."

The court in Shashemene city handed life sentences to the three Muslims at the March 26 hearing for the attack in Nensebo Chebi. Gemeda Beriso, 20, Kedir Beriso, 20, and Keyrudin Muhammad, 19, were convicted of "deliberate brutal killing."

Judges Ashenafi Tesfay, Haji Shalo and Bejiga Kefeni found a fourth Muslim man guilty of cooperating with the criminals. ubgone86i Kuma Ngero was given a suspended three-month jail sentence based on his need to remain free to care for his 12 children, the verdict noted. Ngero will only serve time if convicted of another crime within the next two years.

During the Sunday morning attack on March 2, men wielding knives and machetes simultaneously broke into two churches, half an hour's walk apart from each other, and began hacking worshippers. One man died instantly from a machete blow to his neck while two others lost hands, and another 15 people sustained wounds on their necks, legs, arms, shoulders and backs.

The four men convicted of the crime reportedly confessed while in police custody to attacking the Kale Hiwot and Birhane Wongel Baptist churches. Survivors said that during the attack the assailants cried, "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "Allah is greater."

Having only learned of the verdict on April 13, church leaders faced a number of irregularities in their attempts to appeal, local sources said.

The Christians immediately traveled to Shashemene, where court officials appeared unaware that a ruling had taken place. The court registrar, who typically files all court documents, did not have a copy of the verdict. It was eventually found in the hands of the state prosecutor.

"What we have seen in the court office tells us that there was a deliberate action to stop us from appealing and taking it to the highest level for better treatment," a local Christian said.

The Christians also faced difficulties appealing the case to a higher court in Addis Ababa because the 15-day period for making an initial complaint had passed. But after citing extenuating circumstances, including the Christians having been unaware of the hearing and having been preoccupied with caring for the wounded, an Addis Ababa prosecutor accepted the appeal.

Official Involvement in Attack

Christian sources have named three local Muslim officials they believe instigated the attack.

Hussein Beriso, house speaker of the Nensebo District Council, forced church members at gunpoint to bury the murdered victim, Tula Mosisa, just hours after the attack, Christian sources from the area said. After Christian leaders protested, security forces exhumed the body and sent it to Awasa for an autopsy.

Local Christians have also accused Beriso of buying and distributing machetes for men involved in the church attacks. They said that Beriso had made public comments against Christians in February, warning the village's Muslims to resist any attempts to convince them to leave Islam.

Located in the predominantly Muslim Oromiya state, both Baptist churches have members who converted from Islam to Christianity.

Christian sources also named Nensebo district militia leaders Zerihun Tilahun and Sheik Kedir as having instigated the violence.

A Christian district politician who attempted to expose the role of these three men in the attacks has been removed from his position, a local source said. Getahun Bekele, Nensebo district deputy administrator, was fired in May ostensibly for being unable to "mobilize the public for development endeavors," the source said. But Christians suspect the real motivation for his dismissal was his attempt to report Hussein Beriso's involvement in the church attack to his superiors.

"In the meeting he exposed his colleagues for their failure to fulfill their duties to prevent the March 2 incident," one Christian said. "We feel [local] is deposed just because he spoke in favor of us."

Federal Police spokesman Cmdr. Demsash Hailu declined to comment regarding the investigation against the three local officials suspected of involvement in the attack.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 17, 2008, 11:05:23 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 16, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Teens Flocking to Summer Missions
    * India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas
    * Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage' to Church
    * Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities

 

Teens Flocking to Summer Missions

The Modesto Bee reports that thousands of teens will participate in short-term mission trips in the next weeks, and religion scholars estimate that about three million 13- to 17-year-old young Christians nationwide will serve on mission team this year. Youth mission trips have only become common in the last 10-20 years. While some are encouraged by this new phenomenon, however, others question the true impact of these trips. Lakewood Church youth pastor Tom Elmore, who will lead a group of about 50 to Honduras, says, "That's where they get their first taste" of evangelism and being the hands and feet of Jesus. In contrast, David Livermore, author of "Serving with Eyes Wide Open: Doing Short-Term Missions with Cultural Intelligence," say these trips have  become a rite of passage, benefiting team members more than the community they're supposed to be serving.

India: Christians Homeless Since Christmas

In December, Hindu nationalists burned 730 Christian homes and 95 churches in India's Orissa state, killing four Christians. Now, six months later, Mission News Network reports that many of those whose homes burned are still homeless. "This is just a real hot-bed of persecution against Christians by the Hindu nationalists," said Jerry Dykstra of Open Doors. Dykstra said the number of attacks on Christians in India numbered more than 1,000 for the first time in 2007 since the country became independent in 1947. Government money to rebuild has been slow in coming, partially because of societal prejudice. Meanwhile, Christians are "being ostracized, so then they cannot earn a living in that community. Because of threats against them and their families, some of the children cannot go to school," said Dykstra. Currently, many wait in malaria-ravaged camps until they can rebuild.

Calif. Bishop Pushes Gay 'Marriage'

According to the Christian Post, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California now directly encourages same-sex couples to seek a church union. The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus released a letter on Monday urging clergy to encourage all couples - including same-sex couples - to seek the blessing of the Episcopal Church as the California diocese works for the "full inclusion" of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people. Last September the Episcopal Church decided not to authorize public rites of the blessing of same-sex unions, at least not until a broader consensus emerges in the global Anglican Communion or the Episcopal General Convention takes a definitive stance. "Although The Episcopal Church does not have canonical rites for same-sex marriage, it is our goal that all couples be treated equally by the Church, as they are equally loved by God," Andrus said in his letter.

Indonesia Less Tolerant of Minorities


Minority Christians and Muslims alike face increasing intolerance as religious minorities, the Christian Post reports. "This (religious tolerance) is a situation you don't have in many other countries with Muslim majorities, but tolerance is now under attack," said Catholic priest Franz Magnis, a German-born Jesuit priest and long-term resident, according to Reuters. In general, Indonesia - the world's most populous Muslim country - is considered as tolerant of Christians and other religious minorities. Reports, however, show that more than 100 churches have been closed in Indonesia by attacks from radical Muslim groups or by local governments, according to Compass Direct News. The Muslim sec Ahmadiyya, which many Muslims deem heretical, has also faced increased attacks on mosques in recent months.
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Title: Anglican Unity Strained As Conservatives Prepare for Key Conference
Post by: nChrist on June 19, 2008, 05:28:34 PM
Anglican Unity Strained As Conservatives Prepare for Key Conference
Patrick Goodenough


June 17, 2008

(CNSNews.com) - Conservative Anglican leaders from around the world are preparing for a gathering to discuss the way ahead amid a deepening rift over homosexuality, just days after news broke about the "wedding" of two male Anglican priests in Britain.

More than 1,000 Anglicans clergy and laity, including 280 bishops, many from Africa, are planning to attend the invitation-only Global Anglican Future Conference, to be held in Jerusalem from June 22-29.

The meeting could help decide the fate of the 77 million-strong worldwide Anglican Communion. The denomination has been deeply divided over the 2003 consecration by the affiliated U.S. Episcopal Church (ECUSA) of an openly homosexual priest, Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire, and the blessing of same-sex unions by some Canadian dioceses.

In a low-key ceremony in New Hampshire earlier this month, Robinson entered into a civil union with his long-time partner.

A new outcry erupted after British media reported on Sunday that two male priests at a recent ceremony in an Anglican church in London had exchanged vows and rings. The presiding priest denied it constituted a wedding, saying it was rather a blessing of two people who had contracted a civil partnership earlier.

But while it may not constitute a marriage in law, the ceremony reportedly used liturgical language common to weddings, while the vows included the standard "to love and to cherish, till death us do part" pledge.

The Church of England -- the worldwide Anglican Communion's "mother church" -- has launched an investigation into the incident, which traditionalists charge flouted guidelines established by bishops in 2005.

The Anglican Communion comprises 38 autonomous churches -- known as "provinces" -- that are "in communion" with the Church of England. Its titular head is the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams.

Conservative bishops and lay Anglicans, many from the so-called "global south" -- Africa, Asia and Latin America -- have long felt that Williams has not responded sufficiently firmly to the homosexuality issue, and the fact the latest incident involves the Church of England itself will add to the unease.

Much of the opposition to the liberalizing trend has come from Africa, where more than half of the world's Anglicans live. The two largest of the 38 provinces are the Church of Nigeria and the Church of Uganda, with some 20 million and 10 million members respectively.

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) initiative is being organized by bishops in Africa, South America and Australia, with the support of evangelical bishops in the U.S. and Britain.

Organizers, who chose Jerusalem as a venue specifically to highlight the foundations of the faith, stress that the crisis is over biblical authority, while homosexuality is merely the "presenting issue."

When ECUSA defied earlier resolutions against approving same-sex relationships, no disciplinary action was taken against it, the Church of Uganda said in a statement about GAFCON.

"That is a crisis of authority in the Communion," it said. "Furthermore, the apparent lack of resolve to take action manifests a deeper crisis, namely a crisis of confidence in the authority of the Word of God as the ultimate standard of faith and moral living."

Rather than focus on homosexuality per se the conference goal is to "prepare for an Anglican future in which the gospel is uncompromised and Christ-centered mission a top priority."

Before leaving for the Middle East to prepare for the conference, the Archbishop of Sydney, Australia, Peter Jensen -- who chairs the GAFCON program committee -- predicted that it would be one of the most significant events in the Anglican Communion in the next two or three decades.

He told members of the Australian delegation that the meeting was aimed at "facing new realities in the Communion and turning them into gospel opportunities."

To split or not to split?

GAFCON is being held just weeks before the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering of the Communion's 800-plus bishops, hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Homosexuality was a divisive issue at the last Lambeth, in 1998, when a controversial resolution was passed declaring homosexual practice "incompatible with Scripture" but also calling on Anglicans "to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation."

Some African bishops have decided to stay away from Lambeth, scheduled for Jul. 16-Aug. 3, citing the rift with ECUSA and unhappiness that Williams has invited the American bishops. (Robinson himself was not invited but says he intends to attend anyway.)

"We have not been in fellowship with the Americans who have violated the Bible since 2003, so we are not going to pretend by going to Lambeth that we are in fellowship," the Church of Uganda said of its boycott decision.

"What they have done is a very serious thing, and what the Archbishop of Canterbury has done in inviting them [to Lambeth] is grievous and we want them to know that."

The Ugandan bishops said their decision to stay away was not an act of secession.

"We are still part of the Anglican Communion, and the vast majority of the Anglican Communion opposes what the American Church has done and the Archbishop of Canterbury's tacit support for it."

Some Anglican conservatives are, however, calling for a new and separate global Communion.

"Anything less will leave faithful Anglicans throughout the world as unwilling collaborators in a counterfeit Communion which makes a virtue out of the toleration of teaching contrary to scripture," an umbrella group calling itself the Society for the Propagation of Reformed Evangelical Anglican Doctrine said in a strong-worded document ahead of the GAFCON meeting.

Meanwhile, ECUSA Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has called for a day of prayer for Lambeth this Sunday, June 22, asking American Episcopalians to pray "for a peaceful spirit, a lessening of tension, and a real willingness to work together for the good of God's whole creation."

ECUSA's executive council in a resolution on Lambeth said that although Robinson had not been invited to participate, "we pray that his voice will be heard through those who are there speaking the truth about the Episcopal Church and hearing the truths of others, to the benefit of the wider Communion."

The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM), a British organization, said in a publication prepared ahead of Lambeth 2008 that many Anglicans have been "galvanized into action" over the years since the last Lambeth conference "in the face of mounting threats to the integrity of Anglicanism from conservative and homophobic members of the Communion."

The LGCM said "the power-hungry Global South and the separatist and divisive GAFCON-ites" were trying to take over the Communion.
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Title: Sri Lanka: Anti-Christian Rally Held
Post by: nChrist on June 19, 2008, 05:30:36 PM
Sri Lanka: Anti-Christian Rally Held
Compass Direct News


June 19, 2008

DUBLIN -- Buddhist extremists have invited residents of Middeniya, a town in Hambanthota district, southern Sri Lanka, to attend a huge anti-Christian rally this Sunday (June 22), where they have promised to "expose the great [Christian] conspiracy."

Over the past week extremists have erected anti-Christian banners and posters and held four meetings inviting people to Sunday's rally. A similar meeting in a public school yesterday resulted in students beating a Christian classmate, the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) reported today.

Christians attending the Assemblies of God (AOG) church in Middeniya fear the rally may lead to violence and discrimination against the town's small Christian minority. At previous rallies, extremists ordered shopkeepers not to sell food to Christians and encouraged taxi drivers not to accept them as passengers.

As a result of such discrimination, the AOG church pastor, his wife and three children are virtual prisoners in their own home, according to NCEASL.

Hate Campaign

The Buddhist extremists have hung large banners and posters throughout the town -- even in public buses -- proclaiming, "Buddhists are in danger! Let's save Middeniya from fundamentalists!"

An anti-Christian meeting was held yesterday in the Middeniya Maha Vidyalaya, a public school where the vast majority of students are Buddhists. At the meeting, the principal encouraged students to attend the rally on Sunday and warned them not to attend Christian gatherings.

After the principal's speeches, the students turned on a Christian classmate, pulling her hair and beating her. The child was traumatized and is now afraid to return to school.

Anti-Christian sentiments appear to be spreading in the district, with banners and posters being erected in neighboring Weraketiya yesterday.

The local Buddhist temple last Thursday (June 12) launched a petition against the existence of a church in Middeniya, collecting signatures from area residents. Local sources say the monks intend to give the petition to President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Christians in Hambanthota district have asked for prayer to defuse the situation, to protect their right to worship and protect their families.

Buddhist Monks Push for Anti-Conversion Laws

Buddhist extremists were responsible for scores of attacks against Christians over the past six years, following an anti-Christian campaign launched in 2002 by Gangodavila Soma, a much-revered Buddhist monk.

After Soma's death in December 2003, extremists stepped up their campaign for anti-conversion laws, calling on the government to ban what they called "unethical conversions" to Christianity.

They eventually formed their own political party, the Jathika Hela Urumaya (National Heritage Party) to push forward an anti-conversion bill -- modeled after similar laws in India -- that would make it illegal to convert someone to another religion "by force or by allurement or by any fraudulent means."

Ratnasiri Wickremanayake, Sri Lanka's minister of Buddhist Affairs, put forward a similar bill that was approved in principle by the cabinet in 2004.

Both bills, however, have been put on hold due to intensifying conflict with the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, fighting for an independent homeland in the country's northeast.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 18, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 19, 2008, 05:32:29 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 18, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China: Bookstore Owner to Appear in Court
    * PCA Rejects Deaconess Study Committee
    * Vatican Bans 'Da Vinci' Prequel from Churches
    * More than 1,400 Churches Aim for Becoming 'One Church'

 

China: Bookstore Owner to Appear in Court

Compass Direct News reports that Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan, detained in a Chinese prison without his medication for diabetes, is due in court tomorrow to face as yet unspecified charges. As Shi's health deteriorates, friends say his wife and two daughters are suffering extreme emotional distress as they are forbidden to visit or pass on the much-needed medication. Police initially arrested Shi on November 28, 2007, charging him with "illegal business practices," but officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence. He was arrested again on March 19. Shi's store, located near the Olympic Village, operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission. According to Compass sources, police have placed Shi's wife, Zhang Jing, and their two daughters under constant surveillance; Zhang is suffering from depression and the two girls cry often. Police are also monitoring the movements of Shi's lawyer, sources said, to ensure that he makes no contact with foreign human rights groups.

PCA Rejects Deaconess Study Committee

The Presbyterian Church in America's annual General Assembly voted to dismiss an overture recommending the formation of a study committee on the issue of female deacons, byFaith magazine reported. "This is not a new area of study," said Fred Greco, who served as the chair of the Overtures Committee, which recommended that the General Assembly dismiss the deaconess overture. "There is plenty of existing material on the subject, and our Book of Church Order is clear [that ordained church officers are to be men]." Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, presented the minority report on the issue. "We have to listen to one another," said Chapell, who serves as president of Covenant Theological Seminary. "We have to be willing to talk about difficult things without fear of demoralizing the church. We must get people together in the same room to talk about [difficult issues] in an atmosphere that's not highly charged."

Vatican Bans 'Da Vinci' Prequel from Churches

According to the London Times, filmmakers for a prequel to the 'Da Vinci Code" must recreate several churches in the Vatican and Rome after the Vatican forbid them from filming crucial scenes on church grounds. 'Angels and Demons,' a Dan Brown novel turned movie, has been called "an offense against God" by the Vatican. Archbishop Velasio De Paolis, the head of the Vatican's Prefecture for Economic Affairs, said that Brown had "turned the gospels upside down to poison the faith". He continued, "It would be unacceptable to transform churches into film sets so that his blasphemous novels can be made into films in the name of business." Father Marco Fibbi, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rome, said: "Normally we read the script but this time it was not necessary. The name Dan Brown was enough."

More than 1,400 Churches Aim for Becoming 'One Church'

According to the Christian Post, Life Church pastor Craig Groeschel has launched a month-long series called "One Prayer" in partnership with more than 1,400 churches with more than 800,000 attendees around the world, all sharing sermons via video and a prayer to "make us one." "I wonder if God ever looks at all of His churches, all the Christian churches all over the world, and asks, 'Why can't you guys come together? Why are you so divided when my Son Jesus prayed 'Father, make them one,'" said Groeschel. The series was born more out of repentance than a passion for unity, Groeschel explained. It was his desire not to be competitive against other believers and to instead be united. Unity depends on recognizing the real "one enemy" - Satan - and not other churches, he continued.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 19, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 19, 2008, 05:34:06 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 19, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Gospels Approved for China Olympics
    * Record Fuel Prices Slam Charities
    * Burma Junta Evicts Cyclone Refugees
    * Algeria: Convert Charged with Evangelism Again

 

Gospels Approved for China Olympics

The Christian Post reports that although Chinese authorities had earlier said Olympic tourists would not be allowed to bring Bibles for "distribution or propaganda," officials are allowing the printing of 50,000 Gospel booklets for athletes, printers recently announced. In addition to the booklets, Amity Printing Press in Nanjing - the world's largest Bible production factory - is working in conjunction with the Bible Society to publish 30,000 Chinese-English New Testaments and 10,000 Chinese-English entire Bibles. "This great sporting event presents a unique opportunity to make the life-changing message of the Bible available to thousands of athletes and visitors from all over China -- and all over the world," said James Catford, chief executive of Bible Society, in a statement. An estimated two million visitors and 16,000 athletes and officials will attend the Beijing Olympics, which begin Aug. 8.

Record Fuel Prices Slam Charities

Record fuel prices have hit Christian ministry and charity organizations doubly hard this summer, reports the Christian Post. "We're finding the price of food is going up due to transportation costs, and production costs are going up as well. When those two things are put together, then all of a sudden the amount of money you had available for food is strained even more. There's just less available," Gary Zander, communications coordinator for Food for the Hungry, told Mission News Network. "We could serve 100,000 people two years ago, now we're only able to help 66,000 people," said Bruce Whitmire of Living Water International, whose organization supplies clean water for thousands of people around the globe. Higher fuel costs make it more difficult to conduct daily operations, he said. At the same time, many look to the current situation as an opportunity to trust God. "God still supplies our needs according to His riches and not according to ours," said Al Joslyn of Bible Pathway Ministries.

Burma Junta Evicts Cyclone Refugees

Questions of corruption and propaganda are flowing more freely as donor organizations have still been prevented from accessing affected villages in Myanmar a month and a half after Cyclone Nargis hit, according to Mission News Network. The Burmese junta has been quietly evicting cyclone survivors from shelters and shutting down refugee camps, sending people home for "reconstruction" even though nothing remains. Martial law has been imposed on many delta regions, and donor organizations have been forced to deliver supplies to army-controlled warehouses instead of directly to cyclone victims, prompting questions of stockpiling and fake distribution lists. Vision Beyond Borders' Patrick Klein says they have confirmed reports that the army is now shooting survivors as well as raping female survivors. Blockades are up on all roads and river ways to the delta area to intercept local individuals bringing aid to survivors in order to extort money from them.

Algeria: Christian Man Again Charged with Evangelism

Compass Direct News reports that, convicted of blasphemy and evangelism in two separate cases this year, an Algerian Christian goes on trial in west Algeria for a third time tomorrow, again for evangelism. Rachid Muhammad Essaghir (previously reported as Seghir), 37, will be tried in Tissemsilt, 110 miles southwest of Algiers, for "distributing documents to shake the faith of Muslims." An evangelist and church elder for a small community of Muslim converts to Christianity in Tiaret, Essaghir believes that local police have targeted him for his religious work. Officers stopped Essaghir and another Christian in the vicinity of Tissemsilt in June 2007 and discovered a box of Christian books in their car. The two men said they were transporting the literature from one church to another.

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Title: Open Doors Works to Reach Burma
Post by: nChrist on June 21, 2008, 05:47:30 PM
Open Doors Works to Reach Burma
Jerry Dykstra


June 20, 2008

SANTA ANA, Cali.-- Open Doors reports that thousands of Christians are among 2.4 million still suffering unimaginable pain in parts of Burma (Myanmar). Decaying bodies float in the river tributaries. Mud and water cover land where homes stood. Farm land and seeds for planting are wiped out, along with rice that could have fed families for five months. Despair and hopelessness are etched on the faces of survivors as so many have lost so much.

Almost seven weeks after Cyclone Nargis left 133,000 dead or missing, the situation is still grave.

Speed is essential since it is now the rainy season and this aggravates the situation of the homeless. Moreover, with the government's instruction for people to go back to their villages, the need for house reconstruction becomes more urgent. Those who cannot return to their homes run the risk of losing their land should the government find that they have re-settled elsewhere.

Speed is also crucial so that farmers are able to catch up on the planting season. They have a window of less than two weeks now to prepare the land and plant the seeds this month. The Irrawaddy Delta Region is the central and essential "rice bowl" of Burma. If farmers are not able to plant, the whole of Burma will face bigger problems of food supply the following year. While certain parts of the Delta are not drained of salt water and have stored up some saltiness, farm lands farther away from the Bay of Bengal coast are just about ready to produce again.

Open Doors is responding quickly to the cries for help from our suffering brothers and sisters in at least two hard-hit villages:

* Supplying rice seeds to plant as quickly as possible
* Providing parts to repair tractors that were damaged by the cyclone
* Helping re-establish livelihood projects for needy families such as raising ducks
* Assisting villagers in the re-construction of over 300 homes
* Providing chain saws and kerosene to cut the fallen trees and clear the area (80 percent of coconut trees fell during the cyclone)
* Providing a boat with motor to provide means of transportation and communication to be supervised by a Burmese pastor.

"Yet, in spite of the overwhelming suffering of so many, the churches in Burma are working hard in relief and rehabilitation work," says Open Doors USA President/CEO Carl Moeller. "They have reached out to the needy in their villages in love and compassion. Please join me in praying for all those suffering in Burma and pray that the supplies may quickly reach those in need."

An estimated 200 million Christians worldwide suffer interrogation, arrest and even death for their faith in Christ, with another 200 to 400 million facing discrimination and alienation. Open Doors supports and strengthens believers in the world's most difficult areas through Bible and Christian literature distribution, leadership training and assistance, Christian community development, prayer and presence ministry and advocacy on behalf of suffering believers. To partner with Open Doors USA, call toll free at 888-5-BIBLE-5 (888-524-2535) or go to our Website at www.OpenDoorsUSA.org.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 20, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 21, 2008, 05:49:59 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 20, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Chinese Pastor Detained Before Meeting with EU Official
    * Bangledesh: Muslims Fight to Keep Church from Village
    * Iran: Crack Down on Christians
    * Iowa: Flooding over, But Cleanup Is Just Beginning

 

Chinese Pastor Detained Before Meeting With EU Official

ASSIST News Service reports that a Chinese pastor has been detained and hel at a Public Security Bureau office in Bejing, along with his interpreter. China Aid Association president Bob Fu was told over the phone that pastor Zhang was detained on Wednesday at a bus while he and his interpreter were on their way to meet with Dr. Bastiaan Belder (MEP), Rapporteur of the EP Committee of Foreign Affairs for the relationship between the EU and China, at Yanshan Hotel in Haidian District. Both men are being detained at the Shuangyushu PSB office of Haidian District, Beijing city. Pastor Zhang Mingxuan is the president of Chinese House Church Alliance. CAA says that Zhang Mingxuan, president of the Chinese house church alliance, issued three open letters to the international community last year, informing the world to the sufferings and persecutions he has endured at the hands of the CPC. Since his conversion to Christianity in 1986, Pastor Zhang has been arrested, beaten and incarcerated 12 times

Bangledesh: Muslims Fight to Keep Church from Village

Compass Direct News Service reports that a court yesterday postponed until June 25 a hearing in west Algeria for a church leader on trial for evangelism. Already convicted of evangelism and blasphemy in two separate cases this year, Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, 37, believes he is being targeted for his work with Christians in Tiaret. The convert to Christianity, who regularly posts his telephone number on evangelistic Christian satellite TV programs, said that he has received death threats from Algerian journalist Haitham Rabani in recent months. A correspondent tracking Christianity in Algeria, Rabani told Compass that he did not threaten Essaghir but did send him text messages. At the same time, Rabani admitted threatening the host of an Al-Hayat Christian satellite talk show who is also named Rachid. "I told him, 'If I capture you, I will kill you,'" Rabani told Compass, saying that he had not actually meant to carry out the threat.

Iran: Crack Down on Christians

Mission News Network reports that Iranian police have launched a more extensive crackdown on "social corruption" throughout the Islamic Republic. A religious law instated in February has caused increased concern, as it make sthe death penalty mandatory for anyone convicted of leaving Islam. Those thought to be involved in Christian evangelism also face consequences ranging from the death penalty to social ostracism. "There has been, over the last 60 days, about a dozen Christians arrested. Most of them have been interrogated and held for a little while, and then released after paying a heavy bail," said Voice of the Martyrs' Todd Nettleton. Yet this is no cause for despair. "The church is growing at an absolutely phenomenal rate in Iran," Nettleton said. "Muslims are coming to know Christ; they're getting involved with these house church groups. That is what has caused the concern of the government."

Iowa: Flooding over, But Cleanup Is Just Beginning

The floodwaters may be receding, but a flood of debris has taken its place in several Iowa towns, according to the Associated Press. Thousands of homes were flooded, and now the slow clean up process begins as residents clear their homes of what were once possessions - now, piles of household items stack as high as six or seven feet in front yards. The American Red Cross has handed out thousands of cleanup kits with gloves, mops, scrub brushes and disinfectant, as well as pamphlets with safe cleaning instructions. "We all know mold comes along with these floodwaters and that can be a serious issue, so we ask people to take the proper precautions and take care of themselves as they are cleaning up," said Jennifer Pickar, spokeswoman for the American Red Cross in Cedar Rapids.
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Title: Pastors Seminar in India Attacked, Police Refuse to Take Action
Post by: nChrist on June 23, 2008, 08:22:40 PM
Pastors Seminar in India Attacked, Police Refuse to Take Action
James Varghese


June 23, 2008

KARNATAKA, INDIA -- On June 17, a Christian training meeting attended by about 70 pastors from all over Karnataka was attacked by Hindu radicals.

The series of meetings between June 16-18 were organized in Varna village near Mysore, by Rev. Paul, a South Korean missionary. On June 16, a Hindu radical group named Bajrang Dal (Monkey Brigade) learned about the meeting, and about 100 members went to where the pastors were having lunch together.

The pastors asked the Hindus why they had come, and were told that there were illegal conversions occurring at the meetings. They then verbally abused meeting attendees, and demanded that the event and the alleged forced conversions be stopped.

A story on the website www.persecution.in reported that the radical Hindus then became violent, resulting in two pastors being injured. The meetings then stopped. Fearing for their lives, some pastors ran to get a bus to take them back to their homes.

Superintendent of Police Mr. Ramsubbu told ANS, "There was no report of any attack on the pastors' meeting ... There was a meeting conducted, but the organizers failed to (ask ... police, so our (officers) went to the venue, and asked (them) to stop the meeting."

Following the attack, a few pastors remained to pray. Police arrived, and the ministers were reportedly ordered not to pray or have any sort of Christian gathering. The police seized a Bible, a song book and an English Devotional book from the meeting hall, and wrote down the names of the pastors who were at the meeting.

The police inspector told his staff to seize all the vehicles and other items from the meeting place. However, a report given to a senior police official later on said there was no evidence of any conversion activity occurring, and it was just a casual Christian meeting.

A pastor speaking on condition of anonymity told ANS, "The Korean missionary bribed the Police with ($ 250) to close the case, as (he) did not have proper travel documents of his visit to India."

When asked about his visa to India, Rev. Paul told ANS, "I am on a business visa, and I will be here for a few weeks."

Some of the pastors were taken to the police station. Others asked the asked the district superintendent of police to intervene in the situation.

The superintendent of police said he had no comment, other than that the meeting organizers did not ask permission to hold the event.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 23, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 23, 2008, 08:24:39 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 23, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Algeria: Evangelist Says Police, Others Targeting Him
    * Conservative Anglicans Move to Jerusalem, Release Book Detailing Crisis
    * PCUSA Considers Same-Sex Marriage Issue
    * Gideons Win Florida Case


Algeria: Evangelist Says Police, Others Targeting Him

Compass Direct News reports that a court yesterday postponed until next Wednesday a hearing in west Algeria for a church leader on trial for evangelism. Already convicted of evangelism and blasphemy in two separate cases this year, Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, 37, believes he is being targeted for his work with Christians in Tiaret. The convert to Christianity, who regularly posts his telephone number on evangelistic Christian satellite TV programs, said that he has received death threats from Algerian journalist Haitham Rabani in recent months. A correspondent tracking Christianity in Algeria, Rabani told Compass that he did not threaten Essaghir but did send him text messages. At the same time, Rabani admitted threatening the host of an Al-Hayat Christian satellite talk show who is also named Rachid. "I told him, 'If I capture you, I will kill you,'" Rabani told Compass, saying that he had not actually meant to carry out the threat.

Conservative Anglicans Move to Jerusalem, Release Book Detailing Crisis

The Christian Post reports that conservative Anglicans began their conference two days early on Thursday, as participants at the invitation-only Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) joined their leader, Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, in Jerusalem after he was unable to enter Jordan from Israel and participate in the preparatory prayer and consultation occurring there. The GAFCON participants, more than 1,000 strong, said they are not planning a formal schism, but they are releasing a book entitled "The Way, The Truth and the Life" that details the crisis facing the Anglican Communion, discusses what is at stake in the conflict, defines "authentic Anglicanism," and presents what the future holds for orthodox Anglicanism. "We have made enormous efforts since 1997 in seeking to avoid this crisis, but without success. Now we confront a moment of decision. If we fail to act, we risk leading millions of people away from the faith revealed in the Holy Scriptures and also, even more seriously, we face the real possibility of denying our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ," Akinola writes.

PCUSA May Redefine Marriage

OneNewsNow reports that the Presbyterian Church USA included the issue of homosexual "marriage" in the agenda at its bi-annual denomination meeting this weekend in California. A motion to rewrite the church's Book of Order to allow denominational ministers to conduct wedding services would essentially rewrite the church constitution's definition of marriage as a covenant between a man and a woman. Pastor Parker Williamson, a leader of conservative Presbyterians, says homosexual rights get more support from the denomination's leaders than from people in the pews. "That support from within the staff infrastructure of the denomination really does give it quite a megaphone," says Williamson. In April, the denomination's highest court found that a lesbian minister who officiated at weddings for two lesbian couples was guilty of misconduct, but gave her the lightest possible punishment.

Gideons Win Florida Case

A federal judge ruled unconstitutional a Florida law that allowed two Gideons to be arrested while handing out Bibles, according to OneNewsNow. Members of the Gideons International Key Largo Camp were distributing Bibles on a public sidewalk outside a local school when sheriff's deputies told them to leave or face arrest under a state loitering statute. That statute said a person cannot be within 500 feet of any school in Florida without either "legitimate business" or permission from the school principal. "... [A]nd what's interesting in this case is, the Gideons gave advanced notice both to the local sheriff's office and to the school themselves," says David Cortman, senior legal counsel with the Alliance Defense Fund. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore agreed and ruled the law unconstitutional because it was too "constitutionally vague" and in violation of the 14th Amendment.

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Title: Eritrea: One Christian Recounts the Reality of Persecution
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:22:10 AM
Eritrea: One Christian Recounts the Reality of Persecution
Dan Wooding


June 24, 2008

MALTA -- An Eritrean Christian, Million Mesfin Berhe, has revealed how he was imprisoned, beaten and tortured for 14 months for practicing his faith, before he managed to flee his country for a new life in Malta.

As millions marked World Refugee Day around the world on Friday, he spoke to Ariadne Massa of the Times of Malta (www.timesofmalta.com) about his punishing journey and new found freedom as a refugee in Malta.

She began her story by saying, "Million Mesfin Berhe, 26, sits placidly with his legs crossed, wiping his brow with a luminous green napkin and eagerly waiting for the translator to arrive so he can recount his story."

Then through a translator, he said, "It was a weekday in 2004. I was attending Bible studies after school, when the soldiers stormed the grounds, rounded us up, and began beating us with sticks."

Ariadne Massa then said, "The small group of Christians were bundled into a truck and imprisoned, with no access to a lawyer or any chance of a fair trial. Their crime: association with the Pentecostal church.

"The crackdown on Eritrea's minority churches followed a government announcement in May 2002 that only its four oldest faiths - Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran and Islam - would receive official sanction.

"It was bent on countering religious 'extremism' after independent evangelical and Pentecostal churches sprung up across Eritrea. To achieve its goals, the government closed all churches that were not part of the four major denominations, affecting some 20,000 believers.

"Whole congregations who chose to continue practicing this 'new religion' have been harassed, imprisoned, humiliated, beaten, tortured and threatened with execution."

Ariadne Massa went on to say, "The mass arrests and religious persecution in Eritrea is so severe that it has been described as being among 'the worst in the world on a per capita basis'.

"Mr. Berhe is just one of many who endured this persecution. In prison he was frequently interrogated and beaten - he would only be freed if he signed a document promising to abandon his religion.

"He was too devoted to yield to their requests so he stood firm, even when the blows rained on his skinny frame. One day they shattered the bone of his left hand and his pleas for treatment were turned down.

"Wincing slightly, Million rolls up the sleeve of his shirt to expose a deformed bone, and punctured flesh where the scars snake across his arm. The delay in getting him to a doctor led to a severe infection in the bone, which Maltese doctors are now treating."

He told the Maltese journalist, "I have to take medication for the next three months. I hope it will get better because I am left-handed and it will hamper my chance to find a job."

She said that far from having his injury treated in the Eritrean capital Asmara, Mr. Berhe was held in solitary confinement and often tied for more than 48 hours in a tiny cell, which was scorching hot by day and freezing at night.

"Getting off his chair," she said, "Mr. Berhe lies face down on the floor and - balancing on his belly, his hands clutching his feet behind his back and bending his legs almost double - demonstrates how he was tied, a torture technique known colloquially as 'the helicopter' position.

"Mr. Berhe also had to endure the 'Number eight' position, where the victim's hands and feet are tied together behind his back. A stick is then placed under the knees and supported on a framework on both sides horizontally, and the body turned upside down with the feet exposed. The soles are then beaten with sticks or whips."

He continued by saying, "I was very scared. It was hard to keep my sanity in those moments. The only thing that kept me going was my faith in Jesus and the hope of everlasting life."

Ariadne Massa then wrote, "In the offices of the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), it is hard to picture the torture he endured for 14 months, though the invisible scars are etched on his face and occasionally cloud his eyes.

"However, he brightens up when he recounts how he managed to escape from the security guards after he finally persuaded them to drive him to hospital to treat the excruciating pain in his hand.

"His faith proved to be his guiding light in the years that followed, because he sought refuge with friends who formed part of the Pentecostal church, and they paid for their 'brother' to escape from the country.

"With his parents dead and his only brother whisked into military service, Mr Berhe had nothing to keep him in Eritrea. He knew that if the soldiers caught him they would kill him, so he embarked on a journey with Destination Europe in mind.

"Smuggled in a car through the western Eritrean district of Teseney, Mr. Berhe crossed the Sudan border on May 19, 2005, and walked through the desert for two days. Despite his parched mouth and scorching heat, the smell of freedom pushed him forward."

She went on to say that with no belongings, except the clothes on his back, Mr. Berhe was again taken in by the Pentecostal group in Sudan, which paid $1,000 for his trip to Libya. He spent a year there living off the charity of his friends, but his hand was never properly treated and he required special attention.

"I was seeking a special life. I wanted to reach Europe in search of a hospital and to continue my education," he says.

She said that his fellow Christians forked at another $1,400 for his trip from Libya to Italy and on July 27, 2007, he squeezed into a tiny boat with 26 other illegal immigrants in search of a new life.

"After three days at sea, rough weather threatened to capsize the little boat and they were rescued by a Ukrainian ship, which helped them reach Malta. The group soon boarded a truck and taken to the Safi detention centre," said the journalist.

"I was horrified to be put behind bars. Freedom was my dream and after the traumatic journey to finally get here, I was imprisoned again," he told her.

"The centre was like a zoo of humans. The days passed very slowly and we were left idle - all we did was eat and sleep. I thought I would go mad."

She then wrote, "After 45 days, Mr. Berhe became desperate and he escaped in the hope of reaching a hospital, but he was turned away because he had no documentation or status and eventually sought refuge at the Marsa open centre.

"He was finally coaxed to return to the detention centre, but this time he felt equipped with the knowledge he needed to start the process for refugee status. He was also provided with medical treatment.

"His streak of bad luck was finally ending, and on May 29 Mr. Berhe was officially recognized as a refugee on the basis of religious persecution in his country, and released from detention.

"With nowhere to stay, he moved to the Hal Far open centre and with the help of JRS has begun to piece his life together."

"I am very happy God did not leave me in detention. I see my life as a free man and I feel very lucky," he says.

She said that before his hand heals, Mr. Berhe cannot work, so he spends his day reading the Bible, going to Church, and studying Maltese and English in a bid to integrate. Eventually he would like to get married and become an electrician.

"I am very grateful to JRS and the Maltese government for giving me the chance to live here. I thank God every day for my freedom."
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Title: Anglican Conference 'Last Opportunity' to Salvage Communion
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:23:58 AM
Anglican Conference 'Last Opportunity' to Salvage Communion
Michael Ireland


June 25, 2008

JERUSALEM -- More than 1,000 conservative Anglican leaders were in Jerusalem on Sunday to open a week of discussions looking at the future of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

According to Maria Mackay, writing for www.Christiantoday.com , Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola, the face of the conservative movement, stopped short of forecasting an imminent schism, but said that the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) was the last opportunity to salvage the 77-million-strong Communion.

"Those who failed to admit that by the unilateral actions they took in defiance of the Communion have literally torn the very fabric of our common life at it deepest level since 2003, are grumbling that we are here to break the Communion," he said in his opening address.

"Similarly, those who fail, for whatever reason to come to terms with the painful reality that the Communion is in a state of brokenness and lacked the ability to secure a genuine reconciliation, but simply carried on the work of the Communion in a manner that is business as usual are not happy with us."

The Archbishop of Uganda, the Most Rev Henry Orombi, declined to comment on whether GAFCON was the first step in a split from Canterbury. "Perhaps a question like that is best answered at the end (of the conference) rather than at the beginning," he said.

The Archbishop of Sydney, the Most Rev Peter Jensen, said that unity was the goal but admitted that it might not be achieved.

"What we would like to see is the renewal of the Communion so that we can all again walk together," he said. "I'm not confident that it can be done."

Mackay reports that GAFCON comes just weeks ahead of the Lambeth Conference, a 10-yearly gathering of Anglican bishops from around the world, which will meet at Lambeth Palace in London, England next month.

She states that GAFCON's head of media relations, Arne Fjeldstad, said that most of the 300 bishops attending the Jerusalem conference would boycott Lambeth. Already, the controversial Bishop of Rochester and several others have said they will not attend over the presence of pro-gay bishops at the event.

Mackay explained: "Conservative Anglicans have been at odds with the Communion's leadership after it failed to discipline the US Episcopal Church over its consecration of the openly gay Gene Robinson as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003, a move they regard as unbiblical."

Orombi urged the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, to take a tougher line. "We have been on fire for quite a while, and he just cannot leave us burning and delay. At what time will you salvage us?" he asked.

"Supposing another part of the communion begins to do something which is contrary to the word of God, how is it going to stand up and say no to that? That's my challenge."

Mackay says those who are attending GAFCON have concerns that go beyond the issue of homosexuality, however, to the general interpretation of the Bible among liberals, and question marks over the authority of Scripture and of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

A guideline issued to GAFCON delegates, "The Way, the Truth and the Life", stated: "Repeated attempts at dialogue have been made by those committed to the teaching of Scripture. However, experience has shown that the revisionists are not willing to listen."

It added: "We want unity...but not at the cost of re-writing the Bible to accommodate the latest cultural trend."
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Title: China: Sichuan Church Raided by Government
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:25:42 AM
China: Sichuan Church Raided by Government
Michael Ireland


June 26, 2008

SICHUAN, CHINA -- As more than 50 house church members gathered at a residence on Bei Street, Qujiang Township, Qu County of Sichuan Province, they were raided by more than 20 Public Security Bureau officials, Homeland Security Defense Brigade, the local police station, Office for Religious Affairs and cadres from neighborhood committees.

China Aid Association (CAA) said the raid occurred at approximately 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 29, 2008. It said officials failed to show law enforcement identifications.

According to CAA, the house church members were accused of "engaging in cult activities through an illegal gathering." Seven women were immediately taken away, while officials confiscated Bibles, books and other objects.

Among the people taken away, Zhou Yanying, Zhang Mingxiu, and Yan Zelie were sentenced to five days of administrative detention; Luo Qinghua was acquitted after a detention of 17 days; Wang Qingxiu, the head of the church, was accused of "undermining the implementation of the state law and regulations by utilizing a cult organization" and was sentenced to one year of education through labor on April 29.

On the second day, 10 members of the same house church met at 9 a.m. on Sunday March 30 to discuss the detentions and sentencing. The members were gathered at the residence of Ms. Li Xianbi located in Bei Street of Qujiang Township, when they were again raided by 20 PSB officials, Homeland Security Defense Bureau, the local police station, Office for Religious Affairs and cadres from the neighborhood committee. The officials again failed to show law enforcement identifications, CAA said.

CAA says the members were also accused of "engaging in cult activities through an illegal gathering." Officials immediately detained nine women, including Lei Shibi, Wan Chaobi and four children. Bibles, books, personal bags and other objects were confiscated. Among the members involved, Yan Chuanfang, Yu Liyu and Li Xianbi were sentenced to five days of administrative detention; Xiao Yu was released pending trial after being detained for 12 days; Li Chixia, the head of the group, was accused of "undermining the implementation of the state law and regulations by utilizing a cult organization", and has been sentenced to one year of education through labor on April 29.

CAA reports the members of this church submitted an appeal at Qu County Court House and Dazhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court respectively on May 6 and May 16, but the appeal was rejected. Qu County Department of Administration claimed that these house church members are political prisoners and belong to a cult. On May 27, these Christians submitted their applications for administrative reconsideration to the Legal Section of Dazhou Municipal Public Security Bureau.

In an e-mail sent to ANS, China Aid Association strongly denounces the conduct of Qu County authorities of Sichuan in arresting and detaining citizens at will and infringing upon the citizens' freedom of belief by bringing upon them criminal charges and sentencing them to education-through-labor programs.

The e-mail states: "The Chinese Government's labeling of these innocent protestant Christians who wish to worship God in autonomy, is nothing more than an act of cowardice and an attempt to veil the unprecedented religious persecution within China from the international community.

"CAA and those around the world who are concerned call for the unconditional release of those detained and to encourage the international community to continue to show concerns and attention to the trend of deteriorating religious freedom in China prior to the Olympic Games."

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 24, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:27:41 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 24, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Americans: My Faith Isn't the Only Way
    * China: Bookstore Owner Still without Trial
    * Pakistan: Gunmen Kidnap Nine
    * Iowa: Church Buoys Red Cross

 

Americans: My Faith Isn't the Only Way

The Christian Post reports that a new religious survey found that 57 percent of evangelical church attendees believe many religions lead to eternal life. The study, conducted by Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, is interpreted by some as a sign of increasing religious tolerance, while others bemoan it as indicative of growing religious ignorance and relativism. Among the 35,000 adults surveyed, 68 percent of Americans said there is more than one true way to interpret the teachings even of their own religion. "The survey shows religion in America is, indeed, 3,000 miles wide and only three inches deep," said D. Michael Lindsay, a Rice University sociologist of religion. "There's a growing pluralistic impulse toward tolerance and that is having theological consequences," he said.

China: Bookstore Owner Still without Trial

Compass Direct News reports that a hearing expected Thursday by relatives of Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan, detained in a Chinese prison without charges, did not take place. Sources in China had said that a court date was expected since Thursday marked the end of three months of his detention without charges. Public Security Bureau (PSB) forces are prohibited from holding Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges. Police initially arrested Shi on November 28, 2007, charging him with "illegal business practices," but officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence. He was arrested again on March 19 and police have held him virtually incommunicado, denying all but one visit from his lawyer, and refusing family visits. The PSB claims they are investigating a "complex case," though Shi's store is legally registered.

Pakistan: Gunmen Kidnap Nine

Unidentified gunmen kidnapped nine Pakistani Christians on Saturday in an attack on a religious gathering in the northwestern city of Peshawar, ASSIST News Service reports. "The gunmen came in six vehicles and attacked the house where the Christian people were praying and took away at least nine people with them," a senior police official, Imran ubgone19, told Reuters reporter Faris Ali. Reuters reported that some local residents said over two dozen people had been kidnapped in the attack in the Danishabad area of Peshawar city, the capital of North West Frontier Province. Reuters reported that Pakistan has seen a wave of violence by Islamic militants; most of it in the northwest and the adjoining lawless tribal belt on the Afghan border, since the middle of the last year, but minority Christians have not been overtly targeted as such.

Iowa: Church Buoys Red Cross


At a time when the American Red Cross finds its disaster relief fund depleted, Southern Baptist volunteers are stepping up and providing desperately needed assistance to victims of the storms and floods that have plagued the upper Midwest for almost a month. Laura Howe, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross, told ABC News, "Right now the balance in our disaster relief fund is sitting close to zero. We anticipate that the series of tornadoes and floods that we've had since the beginning of April is going to cost our organization about $15 million." The Red Cross has almost 850 disaster workers -- mostly volunteers -- on the ground in Iowa, Howe said. Southern Baptists have worked 1,931 volunteer days and served 96,376 meals throughout the region, according to the North American Mission Board's Disaster Operations Center.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 25, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:29:31 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 25, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Dobson Accuses Obama of 'Distorting' Bible
    * Pakistan: 16 Freed, Others Still Captive
    * Survey: Traditional Values Still Ideal
    * PCUSA Committee OKs Changes to Confession

 

Dobson Accuses Obama of 'Distorting' Bible

The Associated Press reports that evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson has accused Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama of "distorting" the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution. The comments are part of yesterday's Focus on the Family radio program, and come shortly after Obama made overtures to meet with Dobson at Focus on the Family headquarters. The 18 minute radio segment highlights excerpts of a speech Obama gave in June 2006, in which Obama questioned the validity of going by a particular interpretation of Christianity, citing Dobson and civil rights leader Al Sharpton as opposite examples. Obama also highlighted the differences between laws in the book of Leviticus and the Sermon on the Mount. "I think he's deliberately distorting the traditional understanding of the Bible to fit his own worldview, his own confused theology," Dobson said."... He is dragging biblical understanding through the gutter."

Pakistan: 16 Freed, Others Still Captive

Christianity today reports that 16 Christians kidnapped in Pakistan have been released, but other abductees are still being held by militant Islamic group Lashkar-e-Islam. Reports state that 25 were kidnapped from Academy Town in northwestern Pakistan during a prayer meeting, according to Christian group CLAAS-UK. The abductions came after the Christians received letters a month ago demanding that they stop religious activities, which they refused to do. Although Christians have been increasingly singled out, threatened, and even kidnapped in Pakistan, this is the first large-scale abduction to occur. "The situation is very worrying as it is getting worse for Christians in Pakistan and this latest incident has only increased the sense of insecurity," said Nasir Saeed, Director of CLAAS-UK, a group which supports persecuted Christians in Pakistan.

Survey: Traditional Values Still Ideal


A new Barna Group study finds that faith, integrity, purpose, and family still top the list when Americans rank what's important in life, reports the Christian Post. More than 75 percent of all American adults said their ideal life includes having good physical health (listed by 85 percent), living with a high degree of integrity (85 percent), having one marriage partner for life (80 percent), having a clear purpose for living (77 percent), having a close relationship with God (75 percent), and having close, personal friendships (74 percent), according to the survey released Monday. "Stability rules," George Barna, who has overseen this research since 1991, noted. "Out of nineteen factors, only two have seen even a ten-point shift in nearly two decades. That's rather remarkable consistency."

PCUSA Committee OKs Changes to Confession

The Christian Post reports that a committee in the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved changes to a translated version of a document of the Reformed Christian faith. Critics say the changes are a feint to minimize homosexual behavior as sin. PCUSA commissioners and delegates at their biennial General Assembly went into nearly seven hours of debate on overtures, or resolutions, that called for changes to the 1962 Miller-Osterhaven translation of the Heidelberg Catechism. Much of the controversy revolved around a reference to "homosexual perversion" that is not found in the original German text. Opponents of the current translation say they seek a more historically faithful and accurate translation, while proponents say the passage in question, question 87 in the 1962 translation, alludes to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10. The passage lists "homosexual perversion" as a block to coming into the kingdom of God.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 26, 2008
Post by: nChrist on June 27, 2008, 12:31:23 AM
Religion Today Summaries - June 26, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Anglicans Vow No Schism over Gays, Dogma
    * Obama Dismisses Dobson Criticism
    * Zimbabwe: Political Woes Affect Relief Org.
    * Indonesia: Church Buildings Dismantled

 

Anglicans Vow No Schism over Gays, Dogma

The Washington Post reports that in spite of serious divisions over homosexuality and biblical authority, conservative Anglicans will not cause a schism, they said. "We are Anglicans by conviction and have no intention to start another church," Archbishop of Nigeria Peter Akinola said from the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) meeting in Jerusalem Tuesday. GAFCON leaders maintain the "apostasy" of the Episcopal Church but hope to rejuvenate the 77-million-member Anglican Communion from the inside, working within the Anglican constitutions and canons. Archbishop Emmanuel Kolini of Rwanda called the gathering of traditionalists "a new Reformation" that would take Anglicans "back to the Bible." Bishop Martyn Minns, the former rector of Truro Episcopal Church in Fairfax, Va., concurred. "What was driving this is not politics, it is a passion for the Gospel," he said.

Obama Dismisses Dobson Criticism

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama responded Tuesday to evangelical leader James Dobson, saying Dobson was "just making stuff up, maybe for his own purposes," according to OneNewsNow. Dobson accused Obama of distorting the Bible in a speech made in 2006. Obama said "somebody would be pretty hard-pressed to make that argument" that he was distorting the Bible. Some of Obama's supporters responded to Dobson's comments by launching a Web site -- JamesDobsonDoesntSpeakForMe.com -- that highlights statements from Obama and Dobson and asks visitors to compare them. Speaking to reporters on his campaign plane before landing in Los Angeles, Obama said the speech made the argument that people of faith, like himself, "try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us."

Zimbabwe: Political Woes Affect Relief Org.

Mission News Network reports that the ever-escalating violence surrounding Zimbabwe's election on Friday has forced more groups than the Opposition Party to back down, as Mugabe's government has order one relief organization not to distribute aid. Global Aid Network (GAiN USA) postponed a ministry trip after opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai officially pulled out of tomorrow's election and has sought refuge in the Dutch embassy, citing pro-Mugabe violence that makes it too dangerous for his supporters to reach the polls. Several countries are threatening not to recognize Mugabe should he declare victory, and experts surmise that violence may break any post-election peace. GAiN has rescheduled the ministry trip for May 2009. The order against distribution has frustrated attempts to reach people with the gospel. "As a result, there are many people that they could reach, who have great physical needs as well as spiritual needs that are not being helped," said GAiN USA's Charles Debter.

Indonesia: Church Buildings Dismantled

According to Compass Direct News, local authorities accompanied by an Islamist mob attempted to demolish two buildings in a church compound used by three congregations in Jatimulya village, West Java province on June 14. The initial dismantling of a roof, doors and fence came to a halt after one of several Public Order officers from Bekasi Regency fell from the roof of one of the buildings. Authorities had sealed the buildings shut since 2005. Since then, church members have been meeting in homes. On June 10 officials had informed church leaders and their lawyers that the buildings would be destroyed on June 14. When the pastors pointed out that demolition would be in violation of a 2005 agreement, authorities told them the agreement was no longer in force. The day of the planned demolition, a pastor of one of the churches, the Rev. Pestaria Hutajulu, released a statement saying, "Jesus taught us to obey the government. However, 'Whoever destroys the temple of God will be destroyed by the Lord.'"

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Title: Turkey: Charge of 'Insulting Turkishness' Questioned
Post by: nChrist on July 02, 2008, 04:29:17 PM
Turkey: Charge of 'Insulting Turkishness' Questioned
Compass Direct News


June 30, 2008

ISTANBUL -- Twenty months after two Turkish Christians went on trial for allegedly "insulting Turkishness and Islam," a local criminal court has requested a Justice Ministry review of one of three charges in the case.

In the ninth trial hearing held on Tuesday (June 24), Silivri Criminal Court Judge Mehmet Ali Ozcan ordered a review of the two Christian converts' alleged violations of the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish penal code.

Accused of spreading Christianity by illegal methods, Hakan Tastan and Turan Topal were charged in October 2006 under Turkey's Article 301 for denigrating "Turkishness."

In what critics called "cosmetic" revisions of the restrictive law, the Turkish government amended Article 301 last month, requiring Justice Ministry permission to file such a case. Put into effect on May 8, the changes also redefined the vague offense of "insulting Turkishness" to read "insulting the Turkish nation."

Regardless of the Justice Ministry decision on the Article 301 charges against Tastan and Topal, the Silivri court will continue its prosecution of the case under the other two charges: reviling Islam (Article 216) and compiling information files on private citizens (Article 135).

Teenage Witnesses Deny Claims

Oddly, both teenage witnesses for the prosecution who testified at Tuesday's hearing declared that they did not know the defendants and had never even seen them before facing them in the courtroom Tuesday afternoon.

"Neither the defendants nor anyone else has tried to approach me with propaganda about the Christian religion, and no one has given me written or visual materials," 18-year-old Emin Demirci told the court.

Demirci stated under oath that although he was acquainted with two minor youths who are plaintiffs in the case, he did not know the third adult plaintiff, Fatih Kose.

In his court testimony, Ahmet Kemal Kalyoncu, 19, said the two minor plaintiffs, identified by their first names as Alper and Oguz, were his friends.

Kalyoncu recalled he had once met up with the two youths in Istanbul's Taksim district, although he could not remember exactly when. Someone whose Turkish language skills indicated he was a foreigner was with them at the time, he said. The unidentified man told him that Alper and Oguz had gone to church and invited him to attend as well, although he said he had declined.

Prosecution lawyers told the judge that their two witnesses had been afraid to state the truth because they were "afraid of their families and friends," and still under the influence of people involved in missionary activities.

"They are under pressure," the plaintiff lawyers said, insisting this was the reason for the denials of the two youths, both under 18 years of age at the time of the alleged incidents.

"What kind of pressure are they under?" defendant Tastan asked. "It was the prosecution who called them to testify."

Gendarme No-Show

Despite the court summons sent in March to the Silivri and Istanbul gendarme headquarters requesting six named gendarme soldiers to testify as prosecution witnesses in the case, there was no response from either military headquarters.

A report on the trial released yesterday on the Turkish news website Bianet noted that the initial charges prepared by the Silivri state prosecutor against Tastan and Topal were based on "a warning telephone call to the gendarme," claiming that some Christian missionaries were trying to form illegal groups in local schools and making insults against Turkishness, the military and Islam.

Eleven months ago, the Silivri prosecutor had demanded that the court acquit the two Christians, declaring there was "not a single concrete, credible piece of evidence" to support the accusations against them.

But this prosecutor was removed from the case, and two months later the judge hearing the case withdrew over prosecution complaints that he was not impartial.

"Certainly the case will go on for another year or 18 months," defense lawyer Haydar Polat told Compass today.

Although not under arrest, both of the defendants are being required to attend all the hearings, with the next hearing set for November 4.

"This is becoming very comical," Tastan told Compass.

Ironically, two key figures pressing the Article 301 charges and promoting sensational media coverage of the drawn-out Silivri trial proceedings are now jailed themselves, unable to attend the last two hearings.

Both ultranationalist lawyer Kemal Kerincsiz and spokesperson Sevgi Erenerol of the bogus Turkish Orthodox Church are accused of playing leading roles in the so-called "Ergenekon gang." Since mid-January, 47 people have been jailed facing trial for involvement in the alleged crime network, said to have orchestrated numerous killings and violence as part of a nationalist plot to overthrow the Turkish government by the year 2009.
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Title: Conservative Anglicans Establish Umbrella Organization
Post by: nChrist on July 02, 2008, 04:31:02 PM
Conservative Anglicans Establish Umbrella Organization
Julie Stahl


July 1, 2008

Jerusalem (CNS) - Pledging to work against forces of "militant secularism and pluralism" within their Christian denomination, conservative Anglican leaders formed a new umbrella organization here at the weekend.

The Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) -- representing more than half of the world's practicing Anglicans -- wrapped up a weeklong meeting in Jerusalem, where more than 1,100 lay and clergy, including nearly 300 bishops, declared their allegiance to traditional biblical and church teachings and vowed to combat liberal trends, including the acceptance of homosexual leadership.

In a statement drafted after all the delegates were allowed to give input through the week, the leaders said they were grieved by the "spiritual decline" in Western nations where, they said, "the forces of militant secularism and pluralism are eating away the fabric of society," leaving a vacuum filled "by other faiths and deceptive cults."

The group, which represents more than 35 million Anglicans worldwide, said Christians must work together "to understand and oppose these forces and to liberate those under their sway."

The statement singled out the Episcopal Church in the U.S. (ECUSA) for ordaining an openly homosexual bishop in 2003 and the Anglican Church of Canada for blessing same-sex unions.

These trends have forced scores of Episcopal congregations in the U.S. to break with their leadership and seek traditional oversight, which they have found primarily Africa.

Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, told reporters Sunday that GAFCON had decided to form a high-level group that would take responsibility "to help with the chaos that has been caused in the Anglican Church through revisionist activities."

The new council of primates (highest-level bishops) would be able to "consider matters calmly" and to decide if "fairly drastic action should be taken."

Five of the six primates are from African provinces of the church -- Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda and West Africa -- and the sixth is from the church's southern Latin American branch. The majority of Anglicans lives in Africa and adhere to traditional church teachings.

Jensen acknowledged that the move was unusual, "but then the times we are in are unusual."

Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria said that the conservative Anglican leadership wants those who are following the "false gospel" to repent.

Jensen went a step further and said Christians need to take action to counter the liberal influences.

"The revisionist agenda, which you can see came into its fruition with the same-sex union ... is a missionary one and it is going to spread it's theological views as far as it can," he said.

"That means that the rest of us have to be alerted to this and have to give ourselves to very strong theological work to make sure we can defend the gospel," he said.

While the dispute in the church has usually been portrayed in the media as one over sexuality, Bishop David Anderson, president of the conservative American Anglican Counsel organization, said the main issues were the authority of the Bible and who Jesus is.

The Anglican faith has "jumped the tracks in a number of theological areas," Anderson told CNS.

Those attempting to revise Christian faith [are] leaving the box the same but changing the contents -- making Jesus a way, a truth, a light, a savior, but there are others. You pick what works for you, which in fact is not monotheism. It's polytheism. That is such a radical departure ... not only from Anglicanism [are] from Christianity full-stop," he said.

While those at GAFCON would say that Jesus is the only way to salvation and the Bible is the inspired Word of God, others argued that it was written by men and therefore could be adapted to the culture, re-interpreted and rewritten, he said.

"If you conform your religion to your culture, it's like taking a compass and, when it doesn't tell you what you want, you break it," Anderson added.

In their "Jerusalem Declaration," the clergy upheld "the unchangeable standard of Christian marriage between one man and one woman as the proper place for sexual intimacy and the basis of the family." They called for a renewed commitment "to lifelong fidelity in marriage and abstinence for those who are not married."

Challenge

The conference also challenged the authority of the titular head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Many conservatives feel that he not taken a sufficiently firm stance against liberal tendencies and were angry that he invited ECUSA leaders to attend the church's key once-in-a-decade Lambeth Conference in England next month.

Many of the bishops at GAFCON plan to boycott Lambeth.

In their declaration, the GAFCON participants said while they recognized the historic role of the Archbishop of Canterbury, they did not accept him as the sole figure determining Anglican identity.

So far there has been no public reaction from Williams..

Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda said the move was a "very big" challenge to Williams, whom he described as a personal friend.

"He is a godly, wonderful, humble man," Orombi told CNS. "The Anglican Communion is a tough thing. Sometimes it's not enough to be nice. You ought to make some clear-cut decision where you stand... [are] doesn't want to hurt anybody. He wants to be good to everybody. Then he ends up pleasing nobody. That's a problem."

Although it appears that the Anglican Church - the largest Protestant denomination in the world - is heading for some kind of formal split, Steve Engstrom, a Jerusalem-based analyst familiar with the Anglican Communion, noted that the GAFCON leaders had taken pains not to use the term.

"They have consciously avoided using the term 'church split,'" he said. "The legitimate reason for that is that's not what they think of themselves as doing. What they're doing is laying claim to the authentic Anglican tradition, so they don't want to be construed as leaving something."

"In fact, what they want to point out is that they're not the ones who have left," Engstrom added.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - June 30, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 02, 2008, 04:35:24 PM
Religion Today Summaries - June 30, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Evangelicals May Not Vote in November
    * PCUSA Battle over Property Heat Up
    * Off the Terror List, North Korea Still Threatens Believers
    * Church Convicts Pa. Bishop of Cover-Up

 

Evangelicals May Not Vote in November

Instead of taking his cues from President George W. Bush's campaigns, presumptive Republican nominee John McCain has largely ignored the religious conservatives that are so critical to Republican campaigns, reports the Associated Press. "I don't know that McCain's campaign realizes they cannot win without evangelicals," said David Domke, a professor of communication at the University of Washington who studies religion and politics. "What you see with McCain is just a real struggle to find his footing with evangelicals." Concerns over his record on abortion rights and other moderate topics have left him with ground to recover, while Senator Barack Obama has begun actively courting evangelicals. "A lot of evangelicals would rather take a defeat than to vote for a candidate they don't trust," Domke said. If evangelicals stay home on election day, Domke predicts McCain will stay in the Senate.

PCUSA Battle over Property Heat Up

The Christian Post reports that the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a $2 million fund that would cover legal fees against congregations that secede from the denomination and want to keep their church property. Increasing numbers of congregations have left the denomination over theological differences such as church authority. Many have joined smaller and more conservative Presbyterian groups. Court battles over church properties have incurred hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal costs, which have exceeded the budgets of several regional presbyteries. PC(USA) leaders accuse smaller denominations such as the Evangelical Presbyterian Church of soliciting churches, which the EPC has denied. The Rev. Steve Bryant of Grace Chapel in Madison, Miss., which left the PC(USA) in 2007 for the EPC, said, "We weren't proselytized: We were adopted," he said during EPC's General Assembly last weekend.

Off the Terror List, North Korea Still Threatens Believers

Mission News Network reports that although North Korea's cooperation in dismantling its nuclear facilities appears to be good news, human rights group are not convinced. Jeff King, President of International Christian Concern, a Christian human rights watch-dog group, said, "The first thing that comes to mind is 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' North Korea has a history of fooling us." King does not believe this means positive change for North Korean Christians. "Christians in North Korea suffer incredibly. If you are a Christian and you're caught with a Bible, three generations can be put into prison. So you would be put in prison, your children would be put in prison and your parents would be put in prison." King says Christians not only are imprisoned, but they're beaten, tortured, and executed.

Church Convicts Pa. Bishop of Cover-Up

The Associated Press reports that an Episcopal bishop was found guilty of covering up his brother's abuse of a teenage girl throughout the 1970s. Charles E. Bennison Jr., 64, was convicted of two counts of engaging in conduct unbecoming of a member of the clergy by a church panel. He could be reprimanded, suspended or even ousted from the church. "We are proud of the Episcopal Church for holding Bishop Bennison accountable, and for using an open and transparent process that allowed the truth to come to light," church attorney Lawrence White said in a statement Thursday. The victim, now 50, testified that the bishop's brother, John Bennison, assaulted her three to four times a week for several years. She testified that Charles Bennison accidentally witnessed several of the incidents that occurred in the church itself in 1973. The bishop said he heard rumors and confronted his brother, but kept quiet to protect the girl and the church from scandal.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 1, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 02, 2008, 04:37:02 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 1, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * LifeWay Study Adds Doubts to Pew Poll's Results
    * Uzbekistan: Persecution Increasing
    * Episcopal Church Dissidents Win Court Ruling
    * Columbia: Threats Drive Pastor Away

 

LifeWay Study Adds Doubts to Pew Poll's Results

In a partial release of a new poll, LifeWay Research's findings about evangelicals' beliefs regarding the exclusivity of Christ differed from the recently published results from a Pew poll, Baptist Press reports. The Pew survey indicated 57 percent of those attending evangelical churches agree that many religions can lead to eternal life. The LifeWay study used more specific wording than Pew's use of "religion" which can be confused as meaning "denominational affiliation." Asking Protestant churchgoers whether a person can obtain eternal life through "religions other than Christianity," LifeWay found only 31 percent agreed "strongly" or "somewhat." The LifeWay Research finding adds quantifiable data to growing criticisms that the Pew survey was flawed in how it asked its question and that poor wording caused the Pew's counterintuitive conclusions. The study will be featured in The Shape of Faith to Come, a fall 2008 book by B&H Publishing Group.

Uzbekistan: Persecution Increasing

Mission News Network reports that Christians in Uzbekistan are increasingly charged with "promoting terrorist activity" in their evangelism. Vice President of Russian Ministries Sergey Rakhuba says, "Recently the state launched programs using state-owned media describing Christians as terrorists supported by western terrorist organizations, [saying] that pastors are there just to make money and that's why they do all these outreach programs." He continued, "We just received a letter from our coordinator there with a prayer request that several pastors were arrested. Their computers were seized, their information was carefully evaluated. And some of them are still in prison today." Rakhuba says active faith is persecuted, but the church is continuing to grow underground.

Episcopal Church Dissidents Win Court Ruling

A Virginia judge ruled last week that 11 churches which broke from the larger denomination may keep their church property, according to Reuters. Eleven conservative congregations in Virginia broke from the Episcopal Church in America as part of the increasing controversy in the Anglican Communion worldwide. Judge Randy Bellows of the Fairfax County Circuit Court ruled that the Virginia law under which the congregations want to keep the property is constitutional, which says that any "church or religious society" that "divides" remains under the control of the majority, as does any property entrusted to it. Further appeals seem likely. The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia believes the "regrettable" ruling on the law violates the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

Columbia: Threats Drive Pastor Away

Compass Direct News reports that a series of death threats against a pastor in a working-class Medellín neighborhood prompted him to abandon his home and ministry last month and flee with his family to Colombia's capital. For three years, 31-year-old Wilmer Ribón pastored Rios de Agua Viva (Rivers of Living Water), a church in a paramilitary-controlled neighborhood with many displaced persons and high violent crime rate. During his tenure as pastor, Ribón had launched several public outreach programs, including a sports club and a project that offered food, medical and economic help to the needy. In 2006 Ribón began half-hour weekly evangelistic impactos on the sidewalks. During Holy Week, when a two-month series of death threats began. "You ratted on me and told the paramilitaries, and now they're looking to get me," a caller told him, "so I warn you that if something happens to me, something will happen to you as well." Ribón and his family now live in a cold, windowless half-finished warehouse they share with another family.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 2, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 02, 2008, 04:39:09 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 2, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Obama to Expand Bush's Faith Based Programs
    * Anglican Leader Calls Conservative Proposals 'Problematic'
    * Zimbabwe: Security Unravels Post-Election
    * When Car Seats Become Church Pews



Obama to Expand Bush's Faith Based Programs

The Associated Press reports that an a move that's sure to touch the hearts of evangelical voters, Democratic president candidate Barack Obama announced plans yesterday to expand funding for President Bush's federal social service dollars to religious groups, as well as limited ability to hire or fire employees based on religious faith. "The challenges we face today ... are simply too big for government to solve alone," Obama was to say, according to a prepared text of his remarks obtained by The Associated Press. "We need all hands on deck." Obama's remarks were to be delivered at Eastside Community Ministry in Ohio, which provides food, clothes, youth ministry and other services. Obama does not support requiring religious tests for recipients of aid nor using federal money to proselytize, according to a campaign fact sheet.

Anglican Leader Calls Conservative Proposals 'Problematic'

According to the Anglican Journal, Anglican leader Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams viewed the conservative Anglican proposals to uphold conservative Anglicans from the inside, rather than split, as "problematic in all sorts of ways." The conservative Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON), which ended Sunday, announced a new Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, a new council expected to include six of the Anglican Communion's 38 primates, namely those of Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, the Southern Cone, Uganda, and West Africa. Archbishop Williams raised concerns that a Primates Council "which consists only of a self-selected group from among the Primates of the Communion will not pass the test of legitimacy for all in the Communion." Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said, "Anglicanism has always been broader than some find comfortable."

Zimbabwe: Security Unravels Post-Election

Mission News Network reports that an unsettled quiet has settled on Zimbabwe after last Friday's elections, which the international community called a "sham." President Robert Mugabe was sworn into his sixth term Sunday after winning an election that his opponent dropped out of due to state-sponsored violence. Charles Debter with Global Aid Network, or GaiN USA, spoke to a ministry partner in Zimbabwe about the situation Friday. "Groups of youth were roaming the streets. If a person was stopped by them and couldn't recite a particular political slogan or sing a political song, they may be put in jail." He continued, "There have been ministry volunteers who have been jailed because they were not able to recite those slogans. So we really need to pray for those believers who were working there, who want to be lights of Christ, but for whatever reasons might be stopped and harassed."

When Car Seats Become Church Pews

Like drive-in movies? Then maybe drive-in church is for you, according to an Associate Press story. "I think it's incredible," said Kapone's owner, Renee Ford-Murphy, who's been a member at New Hope United Methodist Church in Marietta, Ga., for three years. "I've never had an opportunity to worship in the open air like this." New Hope's pastor, Rev. Norman Markle, said there are 11 churches across the country that have drive-in services today, including Armbrust Wesleyan Church in Armbrust, Pa., where the Markle got the idea. The service has all the markings of a traditional service - hymns, Scripture reading and a sermon - except attendees stay in their car or spread out a blanket. Markle hopes to attract new visitors to his 150-year-old church with this unique experience. ""Maybe they don't have a church or don't care to get dressed up to go to church; let's find a way to eliminate all that," Markle said. "People go where they're comfortable."
___________________________________


Title: Church Attendance Beneficial to Marriage, Researcher Says
Post by: nChrist on July 04, 2008, 08:32:57 AM
Church Attendance Beneficial to Marriage, Researcher Says
Michael Gryboski


July 3, 2008

(CNSNews.com) - Married couples who attend church together tend to be happier than couples who rarely or never attend services, according to sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox of the University of Virginia.

Using three nationally representative surveys - the General Social Survey (GSS), the National Survey of Families and Households (NSFH), and the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG) - Wilcox found that married church-going Americans across denominational and racial classifications were more likely to describe themselves as "very happy" than their non-religious counterparts.

Couples who attended church regularly were also less likely to divorce than couples who seldom attended church services, Wilcox found.

"Attending church only seems to help couples when they attend together," Wilcox told Cybercast News Service. "But when they do, they are significantly happier in their marriages, and they are much less likely to divorce, compared to couples who do not attend church. I would say that church attendance is a beneficial component of marriage when it is done together."

Wilcox explained that regular church attendance offers certain positive benefits to a married couple: "Churches supply moral norms like sexual fidelity and forgiveness, family-friendly social networks that lend support to couples facing the ordinary joys and challenges of married life, and a faith that helps couples make sense of the difficulties in their lives-from unemployment to illness-that can harm their marriages."

"So, in a word, the couple that prays together stays together," said Wilcox.

However, Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry, took issue with the findings. In an interview with Cybercast News Service, Flynn questioned whether there is an actual cause-and-effect relationship between church attendance and good marriages.

"Some studies have reported a correlation between church attendance and successful marriages," Flynn said. "That may reflect the fact that males who are settled in their lives and highly socialized are both more likely to succeed in their marriages and more likely to attend church."

Flynn said other studies have suggested a link between church membership and better health or longer life.

"That doesn't necessarily mean that believing in God makes you healthier," he said. "Once again, it may mean that folks who have their lives together tend to avoid substance abuse, practice good health habits, and go to church."

Skeptics of the claim that religion is beneficial to marriage point to a 2001 Barna Research poll that showed that individuals who describe themselves as "born-again" Christians were just as likely or more likely to divorce than other Christians and non-Christians.

"A few studies have shown that seculars who do marry have a better track record at staying married than members of Southern Baptists and other conservative denominations," Flynn said. "Those seculars who bother to marry may be marrying more successful than very traditional, male-authoritarian Christians."

Wilcox, while acknowledging there is truth to the Barna findings, pointed out that his research goes beyond "just looking at people's beliefs."

"Men and women who hold a religious faith and put that faith into practice by attending church on a regular basis do look different in the marital realm," Wilcox said.

"At least in the marriage arena, faith alone doesn't work. You've got to combine faith and works to enjoy a happy and stable marriage. You need the consistent message, the accountability, and the support a church community can provide to really benefit from religious faith," he added.

Wilcox presented his findings in a new book, "Is Religion an Answer? Marriage, Fatherhood, and the Male Problematic," published by the Institute for American Values.
________________________________


Title: India: A Summary of Recent Events
Post by: nChrist on July 04, 2008, 08:34:47 AM
India: A Summary of Recent Events
Compass Direct News


July 4, 2008

Uttarakhand, June 27 (Compass Direct News) -- Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists belonging to the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Bajrang Dal and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on June 22 attacked a Christian prayer meeting, beating participants and the pastor in Krishnagar, Dehra Dun city, reported the daily Tribune. The extremists stormed pastor Jonathan Singh's Sunday prayer meeting and beat him and other participants. As the women and children in the assembly ran off, the extremists caught hold of Singh, dragged him to his rented home some distance away and ordered the landlord to throw out his belongings. The extremists ordered Singh to leave Dehra Dun, the report stated. A delegation of Christian leaders went to Garhi Cantonment police station, where the officer in-charge declined to register a First Information Report (FIR), instead advising them to contact local BJP legislator Harbans Kapoor, who is also Speaker of the state assembly. Dehra Dun Senior Superintendent of Police Amit Sinha said he would look into the matter.

Andhra Pradesh -- In Rangadam Palli, Medak district, Hindu extremists from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh on June 22 attacked a pastor, his wife and another Christian woman and poured alcohol on them. The All India Christian Council of India (AICC) reported that at about 8 p.m. pastor Kinnere Kanankaiah, his wife and Manne Laxmi were on their way home from a birthday celebration when the drunken extremists began harassing them. They beat the pastor, knocking him to the ground and stomping on him. They hit Laxmi on the head with the edge of a broken bottle and afterwards poured alcohol on all three. Moses Vattipalli of AICC told Compass that the pastor was admitted to a hospital with internal injuries, and the two women also received treatment. The pastor registered a police complaint. At press time, no arrests had been made.

Karnataka -- About 100 Hindu extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal accompanied by police disrupted a pastors seminar and seized their property on June 17 in Varna village, Mysore. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that the extremists stormed the Well Water Garden Institute's seminar, where 70 pastors were in training, and accused them of forcible conversions. Some of the pastors went to the district superintendent of police asking for protection. Instead, at about 7 p.m., police led by Circle Inspector Venketa Ramanappa barged into the chapel and threatened the pastors with dire consequences if they continued meeting. Police officers took Bibles, books and vehicles belonging to the pastors. With the intervention of the GCIC, the seized materials were returned to the pastors.

Chhattisgarh -- Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal attacked Christians on June 16 in Rewadahi village, Rajnandgaon district. Dr. Sajan K. George of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) said that just before midnight, a mob of around 55 Hindu extremists went to the house of two converts, Karthik Sahu and one identified only as Ramesh. Sahu was scheduled to marry a Christian convert on June 18, and the intolerant Hindus derided him in foul language for marrying by Christian rites in a church and not according to Hindu rites in a temple. The extremists beat and kicked both men for nearly 15 minutes, then went to the neighboring house of Sagni Sahu, where weekly prayer meetings take place, and began berating him and others in coarse language and falsely accusing them of forcibly converting villagers to Christianity. The extremists then left with 30,000 rupees (US$703), which the couple had in their home as they had just sold their rice crop. "The extremists accused the couple of having the money to lure villagers to convert to Christianity," GCIC regional coordinator Sam Mathew told Compass. "At around 1 a.m. on June 17, the couple went to the Lal Bagh police station to register a complaint, and the police detained the couple till morning and released them at 11 a.m." Police refused to register a case of robbery against the extremists, he added.

Andhra Pradesh -- Unknown assailants set a church building on fire on June 15 in Amberpet, Hyderabad. The church was burned down at about midnight along with five huts in the area. A pulpit, tables, sound system, fans, light and other furniture were reduced to ashes, with damages estimated to be around 50,000 rupees (US$1,171). Pastor Majji Yeshurathnam had established the small prayer chapel used as church building in the slum area nine years ago with permission from local authorities, and the All India Christian Council (AICC) reported that related ministries had led to many positive changes in the community. The pastor has filed a police complaint. At press time, no arrests had been made. An AICC representative told Compass that intolerance of Christians is on the rise in different areas of Andhra Pradesh.

Madhya Pradesh -- Hindutva (Hindu nationalist) extremists belonging to the Bajrang Dal on June 15 beat and filed a false complaint of forcible conversion against a pastor in Chungi Naka, Gurh Tehsil, Rewa district, according to Dr. Sajan K. George, national president of the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). As pastor Rampal Masih of Believers Church was preaching to a congregation of 70 believers at about 11 a.m., nearly 25 intolerant Hindus surrounded the rented church hall shouting Hindu chants. Five of the Hindu extremists entered the church, walked up to the pulpit and dragged Masih outside, punching and kicking him and accusing him of forcible conversions. Sam Mathew, regional coordinator, GCIC told Compass, "The extremists brought along two policemen from the local Gurh police station to the church, after registering a false complaint of conversion against Masih. They continued beating the pastor in front of the police. The police warned the pastor against conducting Christian worship in the village and threatened to arrest him if he did so again."

Andhra Pradesh -- Hindu extremists belonging to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Bharatiya Yuva Jana Morcha (Indian People's Youth Front ) along with members of an auto union on June 12 attacked a pastor and a non-Christian brake inspector, falsely accusing them of forcible conversions in L.B. Nagar, Hyderabad. Brake inspector Ramesh Babu was known for his strict application of traffic rules, causing many drivers to turn against him, and pastor Peter Mohan had received many threats not to preach Christ in the area; the two men are friends. The All India Christian Council reported that Hindu extremists eager to implicate them in a false case joined forces with the auto union members to concoct the accusations and launch the attack. On June 13 the extremists and the auto union members staged a protest, demanding suspension of the brake inspector and an end to all Christian activities in the area.

Andhra Pradesh -- Police on June 12 arrested about 40 pastors on charges of fraudulent conversion and for conducting prayer services in a Hindu temple area of Bhadrachalam, Khamman district. According to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC), the pastors led by Bishop John Peter had gathered in Bhadracham for the United Pastors Fellowship Meeting, renting six rooms in Shuban Functional Hall cottages belonging to the temple. At around 6 p. m., the extremists accompanied by police barged into the hall, accusing the pastors of fraudulent conversion and ordering them in abusive language to stop meeting. The pastors were arrested under Section 3 of a law called the "Andhra Pradesh Propagation of Other Religions in Places of Worship or Prayer (Prohibition) Act 2007." The pastors were released on bail with the aid of pressure from politicians, according to the GCIC.

_____________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 3, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 04, 2008, 08:37:34 AM
Religion Today Summaries - July 3, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * India: Orissa Victims Evicted from Homes
    * Study: Americans Know Fewer Evangelicals than Homosexuals
    * Nepal: New Hope for Religious Freedom?
    * Judge OKs Church Ban for Autistic Boy

 

India: Victims of Orissa Evicted from Homes

Compass Direct News reports that at least 36 Christian families whose houses were burned during Christmas season violence in Orissa's Kandhamal district have been evicted from their damaged homes. The tribal (aboriginal) Christian families were still living in the houses, which were being repaired after Hindu extremists torched them during a weeklong spate of violence that began on December 24. The Christians had been living in the houses for four decades, according to the Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC). The Kandhamal district administration demolished the 26 houses in which 36 Christian families were living in Barakhama village on June 24, said Dr. Sajan K. George, GCIC national president. He said the timing of the demolition indicated that the administration gave in to pressure from Hindu extremists. "It is also a sign of the fact that normalcy has not returned," he said, "and extremists are still threatening Christians with attacks in Kandhamal."

Study: Americans Know Fewer Evangelicals than Homosexuals

According to a recent study, Americans are more likely to know a gay or lesbian person than an evangelical, the Christian Post reports. Conducted by Ellison Research, the study found that only 24 percent of Americans who say they are not evangelical know an evangelical very well, compared to 53 percent who say they know a homosexual person very well. These numbers are more startling when contrasted with demographics statistics: Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research, noted that homosexuals are estimated to comprise less than 10 percent of the population, while 17 percent of Americans describe themselves as evangelical. "Is this because homosexuals are more open than evangelicals about who they are? Because Americans are more open to knowing a homosexual than an evangelical? Because evangelicals themselves are less likely to reach into the broader community to form relationships?" Sellers asked. "These questions are certainly open to debate."

Nepal: New Hope for Religious Freedom?

According to ASSIST News Service, Christian leaders in Nepal have reported persecution at the hands of Maoist guerrillas, as well as Hindu militants. Now, they are praying the new republic will guarantee their basic human rights. According to ChristianityToday.com, the republic has given a significant role to former Maoist guerrillas who fought a ten-year insurgency against thegovernment. The fighting left 12,000 dead and displaced 100,000. The Maoists now hold about one third of the seats in the new parliament. Release International reports that guerrillas have repeatedly threatened pastors and tried to close churches, and some of Nepal's tiny Christian minority say their homes and churches were destroyed by the Maoist guerrillas. They were often targeted for opposing atheism and refusing to join the Maoist movement. While Christianity is spreading, the challenge remains for Nepals new rulers to allow Christians to worship and evangelize freely, especially as they are challenged by radical Hindus.

Judge OKs Church Ban for Autistic Boy

The Associate Press reports that a judge has upheld a restraining order against a 13-year-old autistic boy that prevents him from attending a northern Minnesota church. Todd County District Judge Sally Ireland Roberts called Adam Race's behavior at the Church of St. Joseph "repeated, unwanted and intrusive," constituting "harassment." Adam's mother, Carol Race, intends to continue the legal fight. "I thought it would be possible I would lose on some things, but I'm surprised that so many of the points in the judgment were based on hearsay," Race said, referring to the testimony of the Rev. Daniel Walz, the parish priest. In requesting the restraining order, Walz said 225 lb., 6 foot tall Adam has nearly knocked people over, urinates due to incontinence, and needs to be restrained by having his hands or feet bound. His mother said these claims are exaggerated.

_________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 4, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 04, 2008, 08:39:28 AM
Religion Today Summaries - July 4, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Sudan: Window of Opportunity
    * Megachurch Speaks Out on Shifted Focus
    * Venezuela: Pro-Chavez Church Opens
    * Church's Aim: Save Priest's Career

 

Sudan: Window of Opportunity

Sudan remains a human rights nightmare, with the more than 5-year-old conflict in Darfur unresolved and fighting in the oil-rich Abyei region continuing, but the church in south Sudan is growing despite its situation, Mission News Network reports. "We started a Bible school to train pastors and leaders and give them some more sound doctrinal training and really encourage them to plant new churches," E3 Partners Sudan Strategic Coordinator Mike Congrove said. Finding and raising has proven extremely difficult because of warfare, which has eliminated many men between age 30 to 65. The national church is stepping up and has begun three new churches recently. Congrove has also worked to bring short-term teams from North America into Sudan to share the gospel at private homes. "After years of war, you have a traumatized people, and absolutely when they get to hear the hope that comes from Jesus Christ, it's powerful," he said.

Megachurch Speaks Out on Shifted Focus

The Christian Post reports that leaders of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Ill. are speaking openly about a recent study that called the church's seeker-friendly focus into question. The study, published in Reveal: Where Are You?, found that long-time and fully devoted attendees were not growing in their faith or as satisfied as those new to the Christian faith. These findings prompted the church to change its midweek services into a variety of classes for "baby Christians" and mature believers wanting to study theology and Scripture. "If the most shocking confession to come out of Willow in 32 years is that we did research and came out with tools to help people toward full devotion to Christ, I feel really good about our church," said Senior Pastor Bill Hybels, according to a statement. "I don't call it shocking; I call it honest. We have never wanted to play church here; we have always wanted to be the real deal."

Venezuela: Pro-Chavez Church Opens

The new Reformist Catholic Church in Ciudad Ojeda, Venezuela is breaking with the former Catholic response to President Hugo Chavez, openly supporting his socialist policies as a complement to Christianity's commitment to helping the poor. "We don't side with any political banner, but we cannot fail to recognize and support the socialist achievements of this government," Enrique Albornoz, a former Lutheran minister who helped start the church, said in a telephone interview on Monday. "We back the social programs of this revolutionary government." The church started several years ago by a group of dissident Catholic priests, Lutherans and Anglicans and now has five locations in the country and about 2,000 attendees." Jesus Christ's true church is spreading the word and the gift of Christ to the whole world, separately from political issues and party affiliation, Venezuelan Cardinal JorgeUrosa Savino said in a statement on Sunday.

Church's Aim: Save Priest's Career

The Denver Post reports that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Denver not only had knowledge of priest Harold Robert White's "boy troubles," but determined to save his career in spite of it. White was accused in 30 cases of sex abuse against children between 1960 and 1981, according to internal documents released the victims' attorneys Wednesday. The archdiocese did not report White to law enforcement and instead moved him form parish to parish when rumors grew too large. White worked in 10 different parishes in two decades, and died in 2006 before ever testifying in court. The archbishops during the period of 1960-81 were Urban John Vehr and James Vincent Casey. Both are deceased.

___________________________


Title: A Plentiful Harvest: Opportunities Increase in China
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:20:27 PM
A Plentiful Harvest: Opportunities Increase in China
Ginny McCabe


July 7, 2008

With approximately twenty percent of the world's population -- and one-third of the world's non-Christian population -- living in China, the mission field in that country can seem overwhelming. Yet as Bible publishers, relief organizations, and book sellers are finding, the harvests are plenty.

The American Bible Society is effectively fulfilling the Christian commission through its efforts to provide millions of Bibles to people in China. "The Mission of the American Bible Society is to make the Bible available to every person in a language and format each can understand and afford, so all people may experience its life-changing message," said Rev. Dr. Kuo-Wei Peng, a translations officer for the Nida Institute For Biblical Scholarship, American Bible Society. "From our first involvement in China in the 19th century, when we began to support Bible translation and publication work, to our support, in recent years, of Amity Press, which has now printed over 50 million Bibles, we have employed a myriad of methods to help spread the Word of God in China."

A joint venture with United Bible Societies (UBS), which includes the American Bible Society (ABS), and the Amity Foundation in China, provides the cost of paper for Bibles printed at Amity Press in Nanjing, China. The Bibles are distributed internally through the China Christian Council. One current initiative also includes creating a Chinese Study Bible.

"The Church is growing and the Word of God is spreading," said Kua Wee Seng, the coordinator of China Partnership with United Bible Societies. Amity Press began printing the Bible in 1987, and half a million copies were printed and distributed in 1988. Now, the annual volume of Bible distribution in China is 3 million copies a year.

"The Bible is now the best-selling book in China. This is the miracle of God," Kua said.

The numbers of Christians in China has grown exponentially in the last half century. Kua said that in 1949, there were an estimated 2.7 million Christians in the country. During the years of Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976, all churches were closed and the Bible was banned. Today, there is an official estimate of 23 million Christians. Unofficially, some estimate it as high as 90 million Christians.

As high as 90 million sounds, however, only 1.7 percent of the Chinese people are officially practicing Christians. The unofficial count may be as high as 7 percent, but there are estimates that 1.2 billion people still have not heard the Gospel in China.

According to Kua, the public education is secular and most Chinese consider themselves as atheists. Buddhism is gaining popularity. Christianity is also on the rise, especially in the rural areas and amongst young people in the cities. Yet, Christianity is still viewed as a foreign and Western religion by many. Many are ignorant about the Christian faith. The Church is also not very engaged in organized community services and social work.

Also, the current state could affect the future in regard to ministry and mission opportunities in China. "Unless there is a reversal of the State's policy towards religion, the opportunities for ministry and mission will remain in China. In fact, if the current trends continue, the opportunities will increase. But, the Church needs to redouble its effort in training and community services in order to continue to grow, not just in numbers but in strength," Kua said.

According to Peng, one of the greatest challenges is the need for well-trained pastors and church leaders, which is well beyond the capacity of the 20 or so seminaries in China.

Open Doors, which has worked in China for over 40 years, noted another challenge. Open Doors Director for China Xiao Yun said (his real name not given due to security issues), "In China, you do not see the same developments everywhere. In the large cities, the standard of living is improving, whereas in the rural areas, everything is actually the same as it used to be. The churches in the rural areas see their young people leaving and going to the big towns. The migration is so great that the Church outside the large towns is actually decreasing in size. In contrast, Churches in the cities are growing. They are facing a great challenge, because they do not know how they should deal with the migrants. Country people are very different from city people. Churches outside the towns have already been sending pastors to the towns to counsel the rural youth. Unfortunately, this has not proved to be very successful."

Christians in China also deal with a limited sense of calling. "Most Christians in China think that there is only one way in which they can serve God: by becoming a full-time pastor or evangelist. Of course, this is not true," Yun said. "Even if you have a job in a factory or an office, you can be a witness to Christ. This is why we want to help young people discover God's personal plan for their lives," he said.

Meanwhile, the impending Olympic Games are also having an impact on house churches, as authorities become more skittish. "They are afraid that society will become unstable and therefore they want to have a hold on all aspects of society. The House Churches are one of the focuses of attention," Yun said. "In the Olympic towns in particular -- Beijing, Hong Kong, Shenyang, Qingdao, Qinhuangdao, Tianjin, Shanghai, etc. -- surveillance has considerably increased. The House Churches have been told that they are to stop. The House Church movement is a thorn in the flesh of the Chinese government. Abroad much is being written and said about the Chinese House Churches. The government sees this as a loss of face. This is why attention is being focused on 'illegal' gatherings."

Yet authorities can't seem to stop the impact that Christians are making physically and spiritually in relief efforts after May's 7.9 magnitude earthquake.

Open Doors has been actively involved in earthquake relief efforts, and will also continue its work even after the relief efforts conclude.

"We're very thankful that Open Doors has a holistic approach" said Open Doors Director of China Training (his name is not given due to security issues). "We're buying medicines and buying tents to shelter those people who are completely soaked by rain after the disaster struck. We're seeing schools re-opening. Some 7,000 schools were devastated with only a handful of students surviving, so they lost everything. We provide basic necessities for those students going back to school, but we want to do more than that. Doctors are thinking about establishing a medical program -- interviewing and examining these students' who are sometimes malnourished."

He said that even after the disaster struck, there are more opportunities to evangelize. "Sichuan is a poor province and churches are not very strong. One church we visited, a small church with about 40 households, lost half of their members because the Eastern Lightning (a Chinese cult) attack caused them to discontinue believing. Pastors struggle with poor surroundings and hilly roads when they make their rounds."

He continued, "But the earthquake may have changed all that. People suddenly became aware of the importance of death and people are more willing to listen. At the same time, Christians can go to witness to them. We also went to hospitals and were quite surprised -- things are quite open. The leaders wanted people to visit, not only to identify their own family members, but to encourage and comfort those traumatized patients."

Beyond Bible publication and earthquake relief, Christians are also finding that the changing face of the Chinese economy has created new opportunities for trade with the West, and growing possibilities for Christian publishers in China.

For those in the publishing sector, unique opportunities for missions with a twist are popping up. For example, the Global Publishers Alliance (GPA) recently represented titles from 17 Evangelical Christian Publishers Alliance (ECPA) member houses and one guest publisher at their exhibit during the 14th annual Beijing International Book Fair, which, according to one source in a Publishers Weekly press release "...is now considered by many as one of the top four international book fairs in the world."

GPA's collaborator for the week, ZDL Books, organized a half-day series of business-related seminars for the ECPA member houses present at Beijing International Book Fair. "We enjoyed a morning of important and timely updates on the development of the retail side of the business in China and the steady improvements in enforcement of intellectual property protection," GPA President and CEO John Eames said. "We were surrounded on all sides with evidence of the robust growth of the market for English language religious content in China."

He continued, "For Christian publishers with a vision for missions, the Chinese market is worth exploring... There is a great opportunity to reach this mission field now, while we have an open window.  And for publishers willing to commit resources, there is an added incentive--the possibility of a strong business upside in the future."

Indeed, for all those willing to commit, the ground is fertile and ready to yield a harvest for the Kingdom.

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Title: Christian Leaders Back McCain, Adopt Declaration of Values
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:23:22 PM
Christian Leaders Back McCain, Adopt Declaration of Values
Michael Foust


July 8, 2008

DENVER - Giving a significant boost to Republican John McCain's goal of attracting the votes of social conservatives, nearly 100 pro-family leaders gathering in Denver July 1 agreed to unify behind the Arizona senator for president.

The leaders also approved a "Declaration of American Values" with 10 common goals, such as protecting the sanctity of life and affirming natural, traditional marriage. (A copy of the document is at the end of this story.)

A complete list of attendees was not released, but representatives who were there confirmed to Baptist Press that Phyllis Schlafly of Eagle Forum, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel, Wendy Wright of Concerned Women for America and Tim and Beverly LaHaye were among those present. Focus on the Family and the American Family Association also had representatives in attendance. One leading conservative, Paul Weyrich, did not attend because of health reasons but is "fully on board" and sent someone to represent him, Staver said.

Staver, who called the meeting, acknowledged that "there have been some bruises and disagreements" among conservatives during the primary season but said it was time to move on. He said "99.9 percent" of those who were in attendance agreed to get behind McCain. The meeting was first reported by Time.com.

"I felt that it was absolutely critical in order to preserve our shared core Christian and moral values that we have unity among the leadership and that we look at the landscape and focus not on candidates, not on personalities and not on parties but on our values, and then assess who can best advance those values," Staver told BP. "Once we did that, it was pretty obvious that that would be Sen. John McCain, because Sen. Barack Obama would decimate them.

"... We're not suggesting that [McCain] supports 100 percent of the values that we support," Staver continued. "We are, however, saying that he is an individual of integrity and that he would support our values more than Sen. Barack Obama."

Other attendees at the meeting included Dick and Rich Bott of Bott Radio Network, Kelly Shackelford of the Texas-based Free Market Foundation, John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council, Phil Burress of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, Tim Clinton of the American Association of Christian Counselors, David Barton of WallBuilders, William Owens of the Coalition of African-American Pastors, Steve Strang of Charisma Magazine and Don Hodel, former president of Focus on the Family.

James Dobson of Focus on the Family was in California working on a book and did not attend.

The meeting was but the latest good news for McCain regarding support from pro-family leaders. Several days earlier, Burress -- who had previously stated his concerns about McCain -- announced in an e-mail to friends he had had a change of heart after having a private meeting, along with five other pro-family leaders, with McCain in Ohio June 26. Burress said he believes there's a greater difference between McCain and Obama than there was in 2004 between President Bush and Democrat John Kerry.

"It's not even close," he said.

McCain, Burress said, sides with social conservatives on the major issues, particularly abortion and the judiciary. (McCain says he wants to see Roe v. Wade overturned.) Further, Burress also said he takes heart in McCain's pledge to nominate Supreme Court justices like President Bush's two nominees, John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The concerns Burress says he had about McCain are gone, Burress said.

"This is not your typical politician. He doesn't stick his finger in the wind," said Burress, adding he will work in Ohio to educate people about the differences between McCain and Obama.

But Burress also said it's crucial for McCain to choose a pro-life, pro-family running mate. Some conservative leaders, Burress said, will abandon McCain if he does otherwise.

The make-up of the Supreme Court is one issue driving conservatives' sense of urgent need to get behind McCain. The two oldest members of the court -- 88-year-old John Paul Stevens and 75-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg -- both support Roe v. Wade and, some observers believe, are wanting to retire but waiting for a Democrat to win the White House. Some conservatives believe the court is only one vote away from overturning Roe.

"The judiciary is a huge factor," Staver said. "It's important who sits on the United States Supreme Court bench and who is appointed in the other federal courts ... because those affect our shared core values. Those judges either protect or they undermine our shared core values."

Staver also said the leaders in Denver discussed ways to advances their goals beyond November.

"We want to make sure we have a trans-generational, multi-ethnic, multi-racial coalition of similarly associated individuals who share these values," he said.

The complete text of the Declaration of American Values, adopted at the meeting, follows:

"We the people of the United States of America, at this crucial time in history, do hereby affirm the core consensus values which form the basis of America's greatness, that all men and women from every race and ethnicity are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We adhere to the rule of law embodied in the Constitution of the United States and to the principles of liberty on which America was founded. In order to maintain the blessings of liberty and justice for ourselves and our posterity, and recognizing that personal responsibility is the basis of our self-governing
Nation, we declare our allegiance:

"1. To secure the sanctity of human life by affirming the dignity of and right to life for the disabled, the ill, the aged, the poor, the disadvantaged, and for the unborn from the moment of conception. Every person is made in the image of God, and it is the responsibility and duty of all individuals and communities of faith to extend the hand of loving compassion to care for those in poverty and distress.

"2. To secure our national interest in the institution of marriage and family by embracing the union of one man and one woman as the sole form of legitimate marriage and the proper basis of family.

"3. To secure the fundamental rights of parents to the care, custody, and control of their children regarding their upbringing and education.

"4. To secure the free exercise of religion for all people, including the freedom to acknowledge God through our public institutions and other modes of public expression and the freedom of religious conscience without coercion by penalty or force of law.

"5. To secure the moral dignity of each person, acknowledging that obscenity, pornography, and indecency debase our communities, harm our families, and undermine morality and respect. Therefore, we promote enactment and enforcement of laws to protect decency and traditional morality.

"6. To secure the right to own, possess and manage private property without arbitrary interference from government, while acknowledging the necessity of maintaining a proper and balanced care and stewardship of the environment and natural resources for the health and safety of our families.

"7. To secure the individual right to own, possess, and use firearms as central to the preservation of peace and liberty.

"8. To secure a system of checks and balances between the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches within both state and federal governments, so that no one branch -- particularly the judiciary -- usurps the authority of the other two, and to maintain the constitutional principles of federalism which divide power between the state and federal governments.

"9. To secure our national sovereignty and domestic tranquility by maintaining a strong military; establishing and maintaining secure national borders; participating in international and diplomatic affairs without ceding authority to foreign powers that diminish or interfere with our unalienable rights; and being mindful of our history as a nation of immigrants, promoting immigration policies that observe the rule of law and are just, fair, swift, and foster national unity.

"10. To secure a system of fair taxes that are not punitive against the institution of marriage or family and are not progressive in nature, and within a limited government framework, to encourage economic opportunity, free enterprise, and free market competition.

"We hereby pledge our Names, our Lives and our Sacred Honor to this Declaration of American Values."
_____________________________________


Title: Indonesia: Church in West Java Bulldozed
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:25:24 PM
Indonesia: Church in West Java Bulldozed
Special to Compass Direct


July 9, 2008

JAKARTA - Public Order officials on June 26 demolished a church building in Cimahi regency of Bandung district, West Java, to make way for a new shopping mall and bus terminal after church leaders failed to convince authorities that they owned the land on which it was built.

Since the Indonesian Anglican Church of Cirebeum village was established in 1992 -- with a letter of approval from 20 families in the immediate neighborhood -- courts have dealt with a succession of people claiming to be the rightful owners of the property. Even as the church building was demolished, a civil tribunal in Bandung district was considering a verdict on rightful ownership following a hearing on June 24.

Public Order officials on June 26 arrived at the site with a demolition order issued by the mayor of Cimahi regency. They proceeded to demolish the building -- first breaking and removing furniture before bulldozing the structure. As pastor Raman Saragih tried to stop them, one of the men hit him in the face and chest. Several others then joined in until another church member intervened.

Saragih and his church members are pursuing legal action against the Cimahi government -- but it will be too late to save their church building, which now lies in ruins.

At the same time, the Islamic Defender's Front (FPI), a sub-group of the Anti-Apostasy Alliance Movement (AGAP), has continued to forcibly close churches in Bandung district, citing the lack of necessary worship permits.

Under a Joint Ministerial Decree issued in 1969 by the Ministry of Religious Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, houses of worship are required to obtain a permit from both the local religious office and the head of the local neighborhood unit. Many pastors claim that a 2006 revision to the decree has made it virtually impossible to obtain the appropriate permit, making their churches prime targets for extremist groups.

Most recently, a mob attempted to demolish two buildings in a church compound used by three congregations in Jatimulya village, West Java, on June 14. The initial dismantling of a roof, doors and fence came to a halt only after a Public Order officer from Bekasi regency fell from the roof of one of the buildings. Authorities had sealed the buildings shut in 2005. (See Compass Direct News, "Indonesian Islamists Try to Destroy Church Buildings," June 24.)

In August 2005, respected Muslim scholar Azyumardi Azra, rector of the Syarif Hidayatullah State Islamic University, demanded that police take action against FPI and AGAP for forcibly closing churches.

"This group has taken the law into their own hands and they have to be punished in line with the law," he told reporters at the online news portal Detik.com

Azyumardi insisted that only the government had the authority to close down houses of worship. Extremists, however, have continued to act with impunity.

Church Told to Relocate

Earlier this year, as debate raged over ownership of the Cirebeum village Anglican church building, Cimahi regency official Asep Syaifulah asked Saragih to relocate his church meetings.

Saragih demanded an alternative building site and a building permit for a new church in Cirebeum. On June 18, however, the Cimahi regency sent a letter stating that it had authorized the demolition of the church because it did not have the required building permit. Syaifulah also told Saragih he could not build another church in Cirebeum because it was a Muslim-majority area.

Asep offered Saragih 50 million rupiah (US$5,445) in compensation, but Saragih rejected the offer.

The chief of Cirebeum village also met with Saragih several times to discuss the future of the church. Saragih insisted that the church remain in Cibereum in order to serve its members; he asked that local authorities provide new land and a building permit for a new church, but they refused.

Saragih claims to have bought the land in 1991 from a farmer, Yus Boyoh, who gave him a simple receipt rather than a legal title deed. At the time Saragih and his fellow church members firmly believed the sale was legitimate.

In 1994, a man named Nunung Hidayah visited the church, claiming to be a descendant of the original landowner, Soma Bin Wargadiredja. Hidayah showed Saragih a title deed to the property.

Indonesian courts then declared Hidayah the rightful owner of the land, but the church was allowed to continue operating.

Four years later, in 1998, a woman named Ida Rosliah lodged a counter-claim. The Supreme Court eventually declared Rosliah the rightful owner, although Hidayah still held the title deed.

Buoyed by the court's decision, Rosliah in 2003 sold the land to a man identified only as Idris. Idris in turn sold the land to the government of Cimahi regency in 2007, offering Saragih compensation of 125 million rupiah (US$13,550).

Saragih refused, as this amount would not cover the expenses associated with purchasing new land, obtaining a building permit and constructing a new church.

In April, Cimahi regency officials announced the construction of a new shopping mall and bus terminal on the land in question.

In response, Hidayah appealed to a civil tribunal in Bandung on June 24, producing his title deed and insisting that his ancestors had not sold the land to anyone.
_________________________________


Title: Outspoken Archbishop May Return to Zimbabwe
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:27:13 PM
Outspoken Archbishop May Return to Zimbabwe
Dan Wooding


July 10, 2008

UNITED KINGDOM (ANS) -- One of the key church figures in the struggle against Robert Mugabe's abuses in Zimbabwe, Catholic Archbishop Pius Ncube has indicated that he may soon return to the country, still reeling from post-election conflict, hunger and economic chaos, according to a story posted on http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/.

The archbishop has been in England since June 2007, following accusations about his personal life. He had long been an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwean regime.

Speaking to parishioners on Sunday, reports Jo Siedlecka on Independent Catholic News (http://www.indcatholicnews.com/), Ncube said that he had been in England in order to "pray, study and rest" but that: "a shepherd must be with his flock, even if it means death."

The Ekklesia story said that the congregation, which included a number of Zimbabwean refugees, burst into spontaneous applause at the news.

Archbishop Pius told churchgoers who greeted him after Mass that since he has been here, he only eats one meal a day since "in Zimbabwe many eat only once every three days."

In his sermon, which focused on humility and resistance, he declared: "God comes close to the vulnerable. People who cry they live much longer then those who don't cry. Women cry a lot. That's why they live longer than men. I'm not much of a crier. I wish I was. We must ask God for the gift of tears."

Ncube added: "Those people who crucified Jesus were not ready to listen.... It is the proud who are destroying this world. It is proud people who have killed millions. Hitler was a terrific orator. When Hitler spoke he shook up people. But what did he bring? War. 40 million people perished in the Second World War, because this man was so full of himself and so full of pride. Stalin was a proud man. Mao Tse Tung a murderer responsible for the death of 70 million people... During the war in China, he used to say in order to spread communism we must kill more we haven't killed enough."

He continued: "Pol Pot. Mugabe. Our president who got into power by hook and by crook, and this time we hear during the election he changed the results, and went around beating up people, shooting some of them. And he has forbidden the Non Government Organizations to give food to those people who supported the opposition. That's pride."

Archbishop Ncube concluded: "Let us all walk in the way of humility. Only that way can we bring peace and happiness to our world.... So often I hear about Africa - in so many places, in Darfur, Rwanda I was sick for three days after reading what was going on there. In Zimbabwe too. There are so many problems in the world. We must pray. We must be humble."
__________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 7, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:29:31 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 7, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Iran 'Temporarily' Releases Badly Injured Christian
    * Bishops Calls British Public to Help Restore Zimbabwe
    * Algeria: Christians Sentenced for Spreading Faith
    * Group Asks for Divine Intervention to Ease Oil Prices

 

Iran 'Temporarily' Releases Badly Injured Christian

After four weeks in police custody, Iranian Christian Mohsen Namvar was released "temporarily" last week to return to his home in Tehran, according to Compass Direct News. A doctor summoned to Namvar's home after his release last Thursday (June 26) administered medicines and serum to treat the badly beaten prisoner. Arrested on May 31 from his home in Tehran, the convert from Islam was kept incommunicado until his release. "They put a great deal of pressure on his body and his mind," an Iranian Christian told Compass. "No one knows exactly what they did to him during those four weeks." Noting that government authorities know a great deal about Namvar's Christian activities and want to punish him, the source said, "We praise the Lord that they have not killed him." Last week local secret police authorities demanded that Namvar's family put up just over US$43,000 in bail to secure his release. When relatives requested a receipt for the cash they handed over, police refused. "Don't say anything," a police official reportedly ordered them. "Give thanks to God that we are not keeping him under arrest."

Bishops Calls British Public to Help Restore Zimbabwe

As Zimbabwe's political crisis deepens socially and economicly, the Archbishop of York has called for Britain not to forget the country, but actively work for restoration. "I am inviting people to work with me for the restoration of Zimbabwe in order that peace, prosperity and the rule of law are restored to that once great and prosperous land of hope for Africa which has become a waste land of oppression, poverty and disease," Dr. John Sentamu said. He encouraged people to offer prayer, money and practical support as part of the effort. A special service will be held in Westminster on July 11 for that purpose. "We need to remember there is only one race -- the human race -- and in joining together to restore Zimbabwe, we ease the sufferings of our brothers and sisters."

Algeria: Christians Sentenced for Spreading Faith


Compass Direct News reports that a court in western Algeria convicted two Muslim converts to Christianity yesterday for illegally spreading their faith. The court in Tissemsilt, 110 miles southwest of Algiers, handed Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, 37, and Djallal Dhamani six-month suspended sentences and 100,000-dinar (US$1,660) fines. The men were found guilty of "distributing documents to shake the faith of Muslims." The case has received both local and international publicity following a wave of trials this year against Algerian Christians for evangelism and illegally practicing their faith. Essaghir has now moved from Tiaret to the coastal city of Oran with his wife and 1-year-old daughter after police shut down his Internet café in April, although many such cafés operate without this permission. "Essaghir is doing very well, it's a miracle," said a close friend who spoke with the Christian following yesterday's trial. Despite his numerous convictions, the friend said, "he doesn't care anymore; God is in control."

Group Asks for Divine Intervention to Ease Oil Prices


As the price of oil continues to rise, some are turning to God and prayer for an answer to their financial troubles, according to Cybercast News Service. The Pray at the Pump Movement, founded by Rocky Twyman, has been holding prayer vigils at gas stations across the country. On Monday, Twyman decided to take his movement from Exxon and Shell stations straight to the steps of the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., hoping to encourage the oil-rich country to raise the amount of barrels they release each day. Twyman, who is a member of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, spent the afternoon outside of the embassy praying and asking passersby to sign his petition for the release of more oil, which he hopes to deliver to the Saudi oil minister. "Our people are really suffering through this crisis," Twyman told Cybercast News Service. "We need the Saudis to release at least 1.2 barrels of oil per day for about the next six months until we can get everything settled in America."

________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 10, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 10, 2008, 07:31:18 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 10, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * China: Pastor Sentenced to Re-education by Labor
    * Man Sues Zondervan over Anti-Gay Bible Reference
    * Iran: Ex-Muslims Detained for 'Apostasy'
    * Evangelism Teams to Plant Churches in 40 Ukrainian Cities

 

China: Pastor Sentenced to Re-education by Labor

Christian Newswire reports that Chinese Pastor Zhang Zhongxin was sentenced to two years of reeducation through labor, according to a written decision by the Shandong reeducation-through-labor management committee. China Aid Association is told that his sentence began July 4. Zhang has applied for legal aid and is hoping to hire defense lawyers for an appeal. Officials accused Zhang of cult participation in "the whole scope of the Church", organized "Sunday School" training courses, preaching the Gospel to the northwest, Tibet and other places for missionaries, and pioneers sermons. Zhang has also established a training school for pastors and the Rainbow Missions Fellowship in Jining of Shandong.

Man Sues Zondervan over Anti-Gay Bible Reference

Mlive.com reports that a Michigan man is suing Zondervan Publishing and a Tennessee-based publisher, saying that their versions of the Bible that refer to homosexuality as a sin have caused him years of emotional pain and mental instability besides violating his constitutional rights. Bradley LaShawn Fowler is seeking $60 million from Zondervan in Michigan, and $10 from Thomas Nelson, the Tennessee publisher. The court refused to appoint an attorney to represent him in his case filed in June against Thomas Nelson. "The Court has some very genuine concerns about the nature and efficacy of these claims," the judge wrote. The publishers' purpose is to reflect the public opinion to cause "me or anyone who is a homosexual to endure verbal abuse, discrimination, episodes of hate, and physical violence ... including murder," Fowler wrote.

Iran: Ex-Muslims Detained for 'Apostasy'

Compass Direct News reports that Iranian authorities have detained two converts to Christianity in the southern city of Shiraz for eight weeks on suspicion of "apostasy," or leaving Islam. In Iran, apostasy is a crime that can be punishable by death. Mahmood Matin, 52, and Arash Bandari, 44, remain imprisoned in a secret police detention center known by its address, located in the center of Shiraz since their arrest on May 15 (previously reported as May 13). The 13 others arrested with Matin and Bandari have been released but were told they have an ongoing case against them, though officials have not informed them of the charges. During a visit on June 24, Matin's wife was able to speak with her husband for five minutes as officials listened in, a source told Compass. "They are pushing me to tell them that I am connected to a church outside [Iran] and that I am receiving a salary, but I told them that I am doing it on my own," he told his wife, according to the source. A draft penal code under discussion in Iran's parliament this month may make the death penalty obligatory for those who leave Islam or use the Internet to encourage others to do so.

Evangelism Teams to Plant Churches in 40 Ukrainian Cities


Forty ministry teams - 20 from the U.S. and 20 from Ukraine - are kicking off an effort to plan 40 churches in 40 Ukrainian cities, according to the Christian Post. As the first of two phases of Project 125, each team will work in a city without an evangelical church and hold weeklong outreaches that culminate in citywide "freedom" crusades over the weekend. In the past, such crusades have often led to 500 new believers. About 40 trained church planters in Ukraine have volunteers to move with their families to a city and help start a church. Project 125 is led by the Ukrainian Baptist Union, the Southern Baptist's International Mission Board and the Don Betts Evangelistic Association, and has the goal of 125 new churches in Ukraine before next fall. "This is the largest cooperative event we've done," said Don Betts, whose ministry has conducted similar crusades in Ukraine for 18 years. The mission runs from July 28 to Aug. 25.
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Title: Flight Ministry Faces Crisis Due to Gas Prices
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:36:11 PM
Flight Ministry Faces Crisis Due to Gas Prices
Michael Ireland


July 11, 2008

NAMPA, IDAHO -- Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) is cutting operating costs by 10 percent in the wake of soaring gas prices in order to avoid reducing flight services.

MAF is a faith-based, nonprofit ministry that serves missions and isolated people around the world with aviation, communications and learning technologies.

A media release from the ministry says high fuel costs are having a negative impact on all relief agencies, which not only are providing food and other necessities, but in many cases are sharing the Gospel as part of their outreach.

According to the release, the MAF fleet of 134 aircraft flies in the most remote regions of the world and works in areas where some people earn only a dollar a day. MAF is unable to pass along the entire fuel cost increase to clients, so the ministry is absorbing more of those costs.

The release states: "Aviation, in the minds of many, is the heart and soul of reaching the unreached peoples of the world. Missionary aircraft can take people into areas where no roads exist. They deliver food, medicines and other supplies when roads are impassible. But this effective mode of transportation is in peril, as the cost of aviation fuel rises out of control.

"It is a serious crisis," said David Fyock, MAF vice president of resources.

"Automobile gasoline in the United States is expected to reach $5 per gallon or higher," said Fyock.

He added: "Today, MAF has no choice but to pay as much as $13 a gallon for aviation gas -- or 'avgas' -- overseas. That means it costs about $234 an hour in fuel alone to run an airplane. Some MAF programs are already anticipating $18 per gallon."

Any fuel other than avgas will damage piston-powered aircraft engines and could result in catastrophic failure, said Fyock. It's the only fuel approved by the FAA for these engines, he explained.

Not only are prices climbing to unprecedented levels, but the shortage of avgas overseas adds a second crippling blow to the ministry, Fyock said.

"According to the United Nations, between 1995 and 2005, world export of avgas has declined to 175,000 metric tons from 310,000 metric tons -- a whopping 43.5 percent reduction. For all users of avgas, this means fierce competition for a dwindling supply," he said.

Fyock said that because the areas in which MAF is working are so remote, the ministry has to stockpile fuel. The amount of money tied up in fuel inventory is twice what it was a year ago.

"The problem is so serious that after much negotiating, our Indonesia flight programs recently had to buy fuel in one large bulk order -- enough for three months of flight operations," he said. "The cost to MAF was a staggering half a million dollars!"

Not much can be done in the short-term, Fyock said, other than raise more funding to offset the additional costs. However, new technology will help in the long run.

"Long-term, there are some different aircraft and engine designs that are coming out. The KODIAK 100 is an example of one of these aircraft that uses jet fuel instead of avgas. And jet fuel worldwide is about one-third the price of avgas," Fyock said.

Diesel engines could replace current avgas engines as well, which also would reduce the cost of fuel, Fyock added.

He concluded: "The bottom line is all mission organizations need to raise more money to help fund their ministries. Many believe high fuel costs are here to stay."

Founded in 1945, MAF (www.MAF.org ) missionary teams of aviation, communications, technology and education specialists overcome barriers in remote areas, transform lives and build God's Kingdom by enabling the work of more than 1,000 organizations around the world.

With its fleet of 134 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 51 countries with an average of 281 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America.

MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems, in isolated areas.
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Title: Yemen: Arrests May Spark New Wave of Persecution
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:38:39 PM
Yemen: Arrests May Spark New Wave of Persecution
Elizabeth Kendal


July 14, 2008

AUSTRALIA (ANS) -- On 18 June Yemeni news source Al Sahwa reported that Yemeni political security forces in Hodiada province had arrested a "missionary cell" of seven people and charged them with promoting Christianity and distributing the Bible. One of those arrested, Hadni Dohni, stands accused of converting to Christianity.

According to Sahwa Net, ". . . the suspects were transferred to Sana'a in order to investigate them to know who support them." (Link 1)

BosNewsLife subsequently reported on 2 July that according to International Christian Concern (http://www.persecution.org) the Yemeni Christians were still in detention and at risk of mistreatment and torture at the hands of Yemeni authorities. (Link 2)

Hodaida is Yemen's third largest city. It is the capital of Hodaida Province which is located on Yemen's western Red Sea coast and home to more than two million Yemenis. (See map at link 3)

ARRESTS MAY HERALD NEW ERA OF PERSECUTION

These arrests may well herald an era of more intense and systematic persecution. They came hot on the heels of an Islamist media campaign (foreign, terrorist, and local) that claims Islam in Yemen is under threat due to Christian missionary activities; and at a time when the hugely unpopular, corrupt, abusive, dictatorial regime of President Ali Abdullah Saleh is struggling to hold the state together.

MEDIA CAMPAIGN: IN FEAR OF MISSIONARIES AND APOSTATES

On 11 October 2007, Catholic World News reported: "The Palestinian newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi is reporting 2,000 conversions from Islam to Christianity in Yemen.

"Many of the converts are reportedly living abroad in fear for their lives. Yemen adheres to Shari'a law, which forbids conversions from Islam on pain of death.

"The World Muslim League has appealed to Yemen's government to stem the tide of conversions, placing the blame on schools administered by foreigners." (Link 4)

On 13 January 2008, Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) reported: "On January 13, 2008, Islamist websites posted the first issue of Sada Al-Malahim [Echo of Wars], the e-journal of Al-Qaeda in Yemen. According to its editor, the journal was established in response to a call by Ayman Al-Zawahiri, who urged '[those] who are engaged in Islamic media jihad to strengthen their resolve . . . in the face of the fiercest Crusader attack that the Islamic nation [has ever known]." (Link 5)

Then on 18 February 2008, the Yemen Post reported: "Yemeni Researcher Dr Abdul Qawi Al-Tab'ee warned of the growing organised Christian movement in Yemen, hinting the missionary work of foreign agencies focus on young youth to build its movement and spread Christianity in Yemen.

"This news comes in shock to a country known to be free from Christians as only very few Christian Yemenis exist in Aden, which officials say that they are not of Yemeni root.

"Meanwhile, the Islamic World League in its report warned of growing missionary work in Yemen and indicated that the missionary agencies have managed so far to turn over 120 Yemenis in Hadramout into Christianity. It also hinted these agencies are also active in Eritrean and Somali refugees' camps located in southern part of Yemen.

"The league attributed the success of Christianity campaign in Yemen to the absence of attention by Muslims . . ." (Link 6)

It is difficult to see how the above article, written by Yemen Post staff writer Hakim Almasmari, could fail to cause anxiety and outrage amongst Yemeni Muslims.

Almasmari asserts that Christians use international organisations -- especially those involved in education, health or humanitarian relief and development -- as fronts for their missionary work. He specifically mentions the Jibla Baptist hospital without condemning the 30 December 2002 terrorist attack which claimed the lives of Dr Martha Myers (57), hospital administrator William Koehn (60) and supply purchaser Kathleen Gariety (53), as well as critically wounding pharmacist Donald Caswell. He also fails to mention the great outpouring of grief in Jibla that followed the slaying of the three Christians who, having spent 62 years in Yemen between them, had brought health, hope, joy and friendship to multitudes. As distraught mourner Malka al-Hadhrami told Salah Nasrawi of the Associated Press, "All Jibla weeps for them." The terrorist, Abed Abdel Razzak Kamel (35), a member of a group called Islamic Jihad, confessed to having shot the Americans "because they were preaching Christianity in a Muslim country". (See Link 7)

Almasmari adds that while Christian missionary work is strictly forbidden "books and literature about the Christian faith have been widely noticed to be distributed in the Old City of Sana'a".



Title: Yemen: Arrests May Spark New Wave of Persecution - Part 2
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:40:13 PM
Yemen: Arrests May Spark New Wave of Persecution - Part 2

HOLDING THE STATE TOGETHER: A DEAL WITH AL-QAEDA
AND/OR A FEAR TO BE EXPLOITED FOR POLITICAL GAIN

The 1990 creation of the unified state of Yemen brought together North Yemen which was 66 percent Shi'ite and had traditionally (until a 1962 military coup) been ruled by a Shi'ite Imamate, and South Yemen which was 99 percent Sunni, Marxist and until 1990 was sponsored by the Soviet Union. The already aggrieved religiously conservative Shi'ites then became a 30 percent minority in a Sunni dominated socialist ("apostate") republic. North Yemen's President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, an Arab Socialist revolutionary and nominal Shia, was elected as the president of the unified Republic of Yemen.

It is difficult to imagine a more potentially fraught marriage. Indeed, not long after the honeymoon ended, civil war erupted.

As a secular socialist, Saleh was no admirer of religious fundamentalists -- unless of course they could be exploited and employed to his advantage.

During the 1994 civil war, Saleh, who had to fight against disaffected southerners to keep his country unified, employed tens of thousands of "Afghan" Arabs (Sunni fundamentalist Arab veterans of the 1980s Afghan jihad) in a "jihad" against the "infidel" southern separatists. The government-jihadi alliance crushed the southern separatists, and the previously more open and liberal Aden (capital of the south) was left helpless before an incoming tide of Islamisation. This of course has only caused the disaffection and grief of the more liberal and secular southerners to intensify.

The 1994 civil war marked the beginning Saleh's pragmatic alliance with Sunni fundamentalists and militants, including al-Qaeda. It is an alliance that mirrors the alliance between al-Saud and al-Wahhab: a pragmatic alliance built on quid pro quo deals. Saleh does not interfere with al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda preserves Saleh's socialist dictatorship, at least for as long as it is convenient. Al-Qaeda-perpetrated terror under this arrangement is Government-controlled but it gives Saleh grounds to cry out to the West for funding for his war against terror. However Saleh's relationship with the US in the War on Terror (even if it was/is a confidence trick) gave the Shi'ite rebels of the north grounds to accuse him of being pro-American, the ultimate sin.

When the Shi'ite rebellion erupted in 2004, President Saleh employed his Sunni fundamentalist militants and al-Qaeda puppets alongside his army in his war against the al-Houthi Shi'ite rebels.

Thus Saleh is fighting Shi'ite rebels in the north and liberal pro-democracy and separatist forces in the south, by feeding and partnering with Shi'ite-hating, democracy-hating, liberty-hating, anti-Semitic, anti-Christian, anti-infidel, anti-apostate, Wahhabi Sunni fundamentalist militants including al-Qaeda.

This has not resulted in the defeat of the al-Houthi Shi'ite rebellion (which has cost thousands of lives) or the repression of dissent in south. The result has been escalating radicalisation, terrorism, disaffection, rioting and a dangerous broadening of the sectarian conflict as the warring Islamic sects receive support from their co-religionists abroad. Yemen is now in the grip of a Sunni v Shi'ite sectarian conflict which most analysts believe is fast becoming a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

In such an explosive environment it is common for Muslim leaders to try and generate popularity and Islamic solidarity by deflecting hostilities onto a common "enemy": Jews, "Zionists", "Crusaders", Christians, missionaries, apostates. The Jews come first and then the Christians -- as the Muslim war chant goes, "Baad a- Sabt biji Yom al-Ahad": "After Saturday comes Sunday", meaning after we deal with the Saturday people -- the Jews -- we'll deal with the Sunday people -- the Christians.

The Jews have already been dealt with. As reported by WEA RLC News & Analysis in January 2007: "On 10 January [those] the 45 Jews of al Haid, Sa'ada (north Yemen) received letters from a Shi'ite rebel militia. The letters accused them of promoting vice and demanded that they leave the province. According to the Yemen Observer, the 45 Jews have been forced to flee their homes in fear of their lives." (Link 8 )

As fighting flared again in April 2008, the Shi'ite rebels finished the job by destroying the homes abandoned by the al Haid Jews some 15 months earlier. They also looted the former home of Rabbi Yehia Youssuf. Israel absorbed some 50,000 Yemeni Jews who were forced to flee Yemen in the immediate aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel. Some 1,600 Jews left Yemen in the 1990s, leaving a remnant of only around 400 Jews in Yemen today. (Link 9)

Maybe "Sunday" has arrived.

Insecurity, terrorism, separatism, rioting and sectarian conflict are not President Saleh's only problems. He is an unpopular dictator who after 27 years in power still imprisons his critics and rules over a state with high levels of illiteracy, unemployment, poverty and malnutrition.

So Islamic fundamentalists will not be the only ones to benefit from a state-sponsored crackdown on Christian missionary activity and apostasy. The Islamic media, with its anti-Christian propaganda and disinformation, has no doubt made persecution of Christians a real vote-winner. Protecting Islam by arresting missionaries and apostates is one way the embattled Saleh-the-secular-socialist can bolster his Islamic credentials -- important in a Muslim state undergoing radicalisation -- and generate some popularity. Saleh releases convicted Islamic terrorists from prison for similar reasons: not only to keep al-Qaeda happy, but to bolster his anti-US credentials for political gain. While the state's prisons maintain a revolving door for Islamic terrorists, they remain full due to a continual intake of journalists, comedians, singers, dissidents, pro-democracy activists, justice advocates -- and now Christians.

If the arrests are part of a deal with Islamic fundamentalists and/or a grab for grassroots popularity and Islamic solidarity, then we have grounds to expect more arrests and an escalation in very public persecution.
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Title: Sudanese President Charged with Genocide
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:41:32 PM
Sudanese President Charged with Genocide
Tom Strode


July 15, 2008

WASHINGTON (BP) -- The prosecutor for the International Criminal Court requested an arrest warrant July 14 for the president of Sudan's militant Islamic regime, charging him with genocidal acts in Darfur.

In presenting his case, the prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo of Argentina, charged Omar Hassan al-Bashir with genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. During the last five years, al-Bashier oversaw and promoted a campaign substantially focused on destroying the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups in Darfur, according to Moreno-Ocampo's evidence.

Darfur, in the western region of Sudan, has been the scene of a grave humanitarian crisis since 2003, when government-sponsored militias, known as Janjaweed, began what President Bush has described as "genocide" in response to rebel attacks on government bases.

The crisis in Darfur is based on ethnic differences, with the Arab Muslim militias raping, kidnapping, bombing and murdering African Muslims. It has been estimated more than 400,000 people have died and nearly 2.5 million have been displaced in refugee camps in the area.

Speaking of al-Bashir, the prosecutor said in a written release from the International Criminal Court (ICC), "He used the whole state apparatus, he used the army, he enrolled the Militia/Janjaweed. They all report to him, they all obey him. His control is absolute.

"His motives were largely political. His alibi was a 'counterinsurgency.' His intent was genocide," Moreno-Ocampo said. "In the camps al-Bashir's forces kill the men and rape the women. He wants to end the history of the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa people. I don't have the luxury to look away."

ICC judges will review the prosecutor's charges against al-Bashir to decide if there are "reasonable grounds" to believe he committed such crimes and to determine the means of a court appearance by him.

Sudan's regime quickly denied the charges. "We will resist this," said Rabie Atti, a Sudanese spokesman, according to The New York Times. "Everybody in Sudan --- the government, the people, even the opposition parties --- are against this."

The United States is not a member of the ICC, which consists of 106 countries and was formally established in 2002. The Bush administration has opposed ICC membership because of concerns about its impact on U.S. sovereignty.

A Southern Baptist public policy leader applauded Moreno-Ocampo's action.

"While I have concerns about the jurisdictional authority of the International Criminal Court, I certainly commend the prosecutor for his determination to hold President al-Bashir accountable for his shameful role in the ongoing tragedy of Darfur," said Barrett Duke, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission's vice president for public policy and research. "While President al-Bashir promises many things to resolve this horrific situation, he follows through on practically none of them.

"With every passing day the suffering of the people in Darfur increases," Duke said. "It is past time for President al-Bashir and his regime to feel the full force of outrage that exists in most of the rest of the world over the atrocities committed under his rule."

Messengers to the 2006 Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) approved a resolution describing the conflict in Darfur as "genocide" and urging the disbanding of the government-supported militias in Darfur, international trials for "perpetrators of the atrocities" in the region and multi-national aid to the area.

Messengers to the 2000 and 2001 SBC meetings adopted resolutions calling for the Bush administration and Congress to pressure the Sudanese regime to halt the "atrocities and ongoing violations of religious freedom" that marked another genocidal effort in the east African country.

That earlier conflict was largely between the north and south, stretching over more than 20 years before ending ostensibly in 2005. That strife was based on religious differences, with the militant Islamic forces backed by the government pillaging Christian, animist and moderate Muslim villages in the central and southern parts of the country.

The U.S. State Department has designated Sudan as one of its eight "countries of particular concern," a category reserved for the world's worst violators of religious liberty.

The ICC is located at The Hague, The Netherlands.
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Title: India: Monsoons Rain Destruction on Assam
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:42:52 PM
India: Monsoons Rain Destruction on Assam
Michael Ireland


July 16, 2008

NEW DELHI, INDIA (ANS) -- The incessant monsoon rains flooding India since early June have taken an ominous turn in the northeastern state of Assam, where major rivers have reached dangerous levels, 50,000 homes are severely damaged, and 350 people have been reported dead.

In Assam and the other hard-hit eastern states of Orissa and West Bengal, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is working closely with local partners and the Indian government to provide emergency relief to over 16,000 families.

According to CRS, an estimated 3,480 families in Assam are seeking shelter in some of the 27 government camps where they are receiving basic relief supplies. When the flooding subsides, they will need assistance rebuilding homes, roads and community infrastructure.

"Reaching families who have been cut off by washed out roads is critical," notes Father Celestine, Assistant Country Representative for CRS India. "In some instances, families have lost their immediate food supplies in addition to their homes and livelihoods."

CRS says it is coordinating with partners and government agencies to deliver vital food, household items (blankets, stoves, etc.) and hygiene supplies.

In a media release, CRS says that clean drinking water is the most pressing need and aid workers are distributing water storage/treatment containers and water purifying tablets to mitigate the health risks of unsafe water sources.

Father Celestine adds, "In preparation for the floods, CRS and Caritas have purchased 5,000 kits with water treatment tablets, buckets, soap and other items, and have trained community groups in how to use the water treatment tablets. CRS is using small boats to reach families who do not have access to safe water with these life-saving supplies."

CRS adds that this is likely to be a devastating monsoon season. Hitting early in the east, the areas to suffer the most so far are Balasore district in Orissa, East and West Mindapore districts in West Bengal, and Lakhimpur district in Assam. The first week of rains raised local river waters above danger levels, blocked roads, washed away homes, inundated crops, and collapsed bridges -- threatening the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands.

Long-Term: Turning the Tide of Disaster

CRS says that every year, India's monsoon rains cause massive devastation, resulting in the loss of homes, commerce, cattle, and human life.

CRS explains that Orissa, one of India's poorest states, has experienced nature's fury time and again. Out of the state's 30 districts, 25 are affected by floods, cyclones, droughts, or multiple hazards every year. Most often the brunt of flooding falls on poor and marginalized communities. These are people who lack the influence and money to recover from natural disasters. Read more about CRS' disaster preparedness programs in India at: http://crs.org/india/monsoon-preparation.

Catholic Relief Services is the international humanitarian agency of the Catholic community in the United States. The agency provides assistance to people in more than 100 countries and territories based on need, regardless of race, nationality or creed. For more information, please visit http://www.crs.org/.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 11, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:45:01 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 11, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Myanmar, China: Local Church Leaders Help Rebuild
    * Chinese Clergy to Provide Services in Olympic Village
    * Turkey: Alleged Masterminds of Malatya Murders Named
    * Southern Baptists Included at Bush Faith-Based Conference

 

Myanmar, China: Local Church Leaders Help Rebuild

China's earthquake and Myanmar's cyclone may seem like a long time ago, but the long-term rebuilding is only beginning in the two countries, Mission News Network reports. "A long-term presence is needed in order to...rebuild those communities into viable places in which to live and work," said Howard Amland, Vice President, Resource Partners, of Partners International. The organization is committed to partnering with local Christians to help them rebuild and strengthen their outreach. "[In] farming communities and fishing communities, individuals can't really make a living right now. Entire areas...won't be able to be replanted for quite some time to come," Almand continues. This also means helping provide everything from basic necessities to plates and bowls in Burma and caring for orphans in China. China's death toll climbed more than 80,000 and millions were left homeless after the May 12 quake. Myanmar's Cyclone Nargis killed 50,000 and destroyed rice harvests in already poor areas.

Chinese Clergy to Provide Services in Olympic Village

Chinese clergy both protestant and catholic will be on site in the Olympic Village to hold services for foreign believers, according to chinaview.cn. The tradition of a religious service center continues in Bejing, where the clergy from the five major world religions have been invited to lead services. Sister Yu Shuqin, a Catholic nun, will be in the village with 16 colleagues, and Rev. Xu Xiaohong, an official of the Shanghai-based China Christian Council, leads a group for the Protestant church. The services include typical religious activities, simple interpretations works and guiding the way to churches in downtown Bejing. An additional 50,000 copies of Chinese-English new Testaments are being printed in a special Olympic edition, taking the total to 110,000 available in the main churches of Beijing, the six co-host cities and the Village itself.

Turkey: Alleged Masterminds in Malatya Murders Named

Compass Direct News reports that despite new court testimony naming a web of ranking local officials behind the slaughter of three Christians in Malatya last year, defense lawyers for the alleged murderers attempted to turn last week's hearing into an investigation into Christian missionary activities. Playing to rising anti-Christian sentiments in 99 percent Muslim Turkey, the murderers' attorneys peppered four of the six witnesses testifying at hearing with probing questions about their personal religious beliefs and involvement in Christian activities. The defense also pursued a line of questioning linked to a farfetched conspiracy theory, based on the murderers' claims that the Malatya office of Zirve Publishing Co. was secretly linked to the illegal Kurdistan Workers' Party terrorist group. But the firsthand testimony of a prosecution witness claiming to know personally the instigators of the deadly plot dominated Friday's (July 4) hearing. Metin Dogan said Burhan Coskun, president of the ultranationalist youth organization Ulku Ocaklari, had insisted to him, "This job will be done with a knife, it cannot be any other way. If it's done with a gun, it cannot be arranged with the police."

Southern Baptists Included at Bush Faith-Based Conference

The Baptist Press reports that Bush emphasized the importance of people, not government to "fix" America, Bush told more than 1,000 faith-based and community groups in Washington. "Groups like yours have harnessed a power that no government bureaucracy can match," Bush said. "So when I came to Washington, my goal was to ensure that government made you a full partner in our efforts to serve those in need. The results have been uplifting, and that's what we're here to talk about today." The White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives hosted the national conference which included about 200 small group workshops. The event served as a "pep talk," said Karl Ragan, a specialist in disaster relief for the Southern Baptist Convention's North American Mission Board. "The entire administration is looking ahead toward the next administration," Ragan said. "They wanted the faith-based groups to show strength and solidarity behind the faith-based initiatives going into the next administration.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:47:07 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 14, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Study: Bible Still Tops "Holy Books" List
    * Awards Totaling Up to $600K to Honor Pro-Life Heroes
    * Pakistan: Girls Kidnapped, Allegedly Forced to Convert
    * Sri Lanka: Christians Bear Brunt of Violence

 

Study: Bible Still Tops "Holy Books" List

According to a new study by the Barna Group, the Bible still tops the list of books Americans consider "holy texts." Eighty-four percent of the 1,003 person national sample considered the Bible to be sacred literature, while the Koran was second with 4 percent and the Book of Mormon followed with 3 percent. One in 14 who describe themselves as Christian, however, did not consider the Bible to be a sacred literature; that figure increased to two in five among those who do not describe themselves as Christian. Age-differences came into play as well, as only 77 percent of people under age 40 admitted the Bible as holy, compared to 90 percent of those above 40. At least three-quarters of most subgroups of the population named the bible, the exception being Asians (only 54 percent), those associated with non-Christian faith groups (59 percent), atheists and agnostics (30 percent) and those describing themselves as "mostly liberal" on social and political issues (69 percent).

Awards Totaling Up to $600k to Honor Pro-Life Heroes

A pro-life foundation announced plans to recognize key leaders and groups in the pro-life culture by awarding up to $600,000 to them, the Christian Post reports. "Our primary objective is to reward those who are preserving the culture of life through their charitable enterprises or through advocacy programs that defend and preserve the sanctity of human life," says attorney Cathy Ruse, executive director of Life Prize. Up to six individuals or groups will be recognized with the "Norinne A. and Raymond E. Ruddy Memorial Pro-Life Price," awarded by the Gerald Health Foundation. Pro-life leaders have until Aug. 15 to submit nominations. Nominees will be evaluated by their advances in public advocacy, scientific research, outreach and public disclosure activities, legal action or other noteworthy achievements, according to the foundation.

Pakistan: Girls Kidnapped, Allegedly Forced to Convert

Compass Direct News reports that a Christian father in Pakistan is in a legal battle with kidnappers for the custody of his pre-teen daughters, who allegedly have been forced to convert to Islam. Yesterday a judge in Pakistan's Punjab province ordered further investigation into the kidnapping of Saba Younis, 12, and Aneela Younis, 10, who went missing on June 26 in the small town of Chowk Munda. The kidnappers filed for custody of the girls at the local police house on June 28, stating that the sisters had converted to Islam and their father no longer had jurisdiction over them. When the girls' father, Younis Masih, was summoned to the police house to testify, police initially refused to file a case, telling Masih to "remain silent" as the girls had embraced Islam. Ashfaq Fateh, a Christian advocate who established contact with Masih this week, said that the girls' Catholic family had not received threats for their faith. He asserted, however, that the kidnapping was a religious matter.

Sri Lanka: Christians Bear Brunt of Violence

Mission News Network reports that Christians in Sri Lanka are having an ever-increasing impact, earning the ire and retaliation of local Buddhist monks, according to Voice of the Martyrs' Canada. Threatened by loss of power as evangelical Christianity grows, local monks have incited militant Buddhists to burn churches and commit physical violence against Christians. On July 3, militants threatened an Assemblies of God church pastor and began to burn his house, although the blaze was put out because it caused significant damage. On July 6, five Buddhist monks disrupted a Calvary Church service in Colombo and threatened to destory all local churches. The pastor and at least five others were beaten and endured serious injuries.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 15, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:48:49 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 15, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Florida 'Healing Revivals' Draw Critics
    * Japan: Buddhism May Be Dying Out
    * Indonesia: Religious Tensions Rise in West Papua
    * Chinese Crackdown Extends into Thailand, Tibet

 

Florida 'Healing Revivals' Draw Critics

The "healing revivals" of the last three months in Lakeland, Fl., are drawing even charismatic criticism, the Christian Post reports. Todd Bentley says he has cured cancer, healed the deaf and even raised the dead via God's power, and Internet streaming sources have quickly increased his popularity online. More than 400,000 have visited his raucous revival tent, where the 32-year-old tattooed Canadian lays forceful hands on those who come forward for healing. Though he gives credit to God, Christian critics say he rarely preaches the Gospel or even opens a Bible and focuses on the miracles more than conversion. Bentley defended himself, saying, "Miracles and healings are evidence," Bentley said. "They are signs of the Kingdom, and if we don't have signs then all we have is a bunch of theology." But Assemblies of God Superintendent George O. Wood said, "Miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival -- fidelity to God's Word is the test... Jesus Himself said there would be many who would do miracles in His name and even cast out demons, but he does not know them.

Japan: Buddhism May Be Dying Out

The subtle decline of Buddhism in Japan is now snowballing into a fast descent, the New York Times reports. The Japanese have adopted Buddhism almost solely for funeral liturgy and services, highlighting its inability to meet the spiritual needs of the living. "That's the image of funeral Buddhism: that it doesn't meet people's spiritual needs," said Ryoko Mori, the chief priest at the 700-year-old Zuikoji Temple here in northern Japan. "In Islam or Christianity, they hold sermons on spiritual matters. But in Japan nowadays, very few Buddhist priests do that." The problem stems partly from a lack of successors to family-run temples nationwide, while Buddhism's strongholds in rural Japan are quickly being depopulated. These are compounded with increasing materialism of a wealthy nation. "... I think this place is beyond hope," Giju Sakamoto, 74, said at his temple, which sits atop a promontory overlooking a seaside village.

Indonesia: Religious Tensions Rise in West Papua

Compass Direct News reports that uthorities in West Papua, Indonesia, must move fast to prevent tension between Christian and Muslim communities escalating into a Malukan-style conflict, according to a recent report by the International Crisis Group (ICG). The neighboring Maluku islands erupted into bitter sectarian warfare between 1999 and 2002, leaving thousands dead, injured or homeless. Several developments from the beginning of the decade have heightened tension in recent months, according to ICG. New, less tolerant strands of Islam and Christianity have gained influence since 2002, creating fissures within and between religious communities, the report claims. Also, faith issues have acquired a political dimension, since many Papuan Christians believe a Special Autonomy Law passed in 2001 was too limited, while Muslim migrants firmly support centralized rule from Jakarta and accuse Christians of separatism. Most importantly, an influx of Muslim migrants, initially sponsored by the government, has changed demographics in the region. Papuan Christians now fear they will become a minority.

Chinese Crackdown Extends into Thailand, Tibet

The pre-Olympic crackdown on Christians and political dissidents reaches beyond China's borders in Thailand and Tibet, according to Mission News Network. In Thailand, authorities have restricted one ministry's efforts to distribute Bibles to Chinese tourists in public places. Southern Cross Project aims to distribute one million Easy-to-Read Version Chinese Bibles per year to business people and Chinese Communist Party officials who are allowed to travel outside China, where Bibles are more difficult to obtain. In Tibet, peace is an illusion, as people have not forgotten the Chinese crackdown at a March riot, for which 42 have been convicted and more than a hundred await trial. Under this suppression, many are looking for hope. Words of Hope's Lee DeYoung says, "The broadcast that Words of Hope is involved in every night continues to broadcast hope and the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Tibetan people... we do know, from a number of testimonies, that people do listen quietly in private."

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 16, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 16, 2008, 09:50:43 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 16, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Robinson Joins Lambeth as 'Friendly Reminder'
    * Bush Vows to Push China to Honor Religious Freedom
    * Guatemala: Christian Stations Forced off Air
    * Catholic World Youth Day Launches in Sydney

 

Robinson Joins Lambeth as 'Friendly Reminder'

The Institute for Religion and Democracy reports that Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson, fresh from a recently-celebrated same-sex union in his home diocese of New Hampshire, has descended upon Britain for the upcoming Lambeth Conference, a once-in-ten-year meeting of the Anglican Communion. Due to the controversy over his consecration, Robinson was one of a handful of bishops not invited to the conference convened by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. Despite this, Robinson has decided to make appearances on the periphery of events and provide what he called a "constant and friendly" reminder of gays in the church. More than 200 conservative bishops are boycotting Lambeth because Episcopal leaders who consecrated Robinson will be there.

Bush Vows to Push China to Honor Religious Freedom

President Bush promised to continue pressuring China on religious freedom issues, he said in a speech Monday, the Christian Post reports. Monday marked the 10th anniversary of the International Religious Freedom Act, which China denies violating in spite of ample evidence. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom urged Bush on Monday to use his time at the Beijing Olympics to meet with human rights activists and religious leaders to underscore the United States' position on China's buses. "We know President Bush has a strong, personal commitment to the issue of religious freedom in China. We hope he will convey his convictions in tangible ways, not only to China's leaders, but to its people," Commission Chair Felice D. Gaer said. Bush met with Chinese President Hu Jintao during a break in the Group of Eight summit in Japan last week.

Guatemala: Christian Stations Forced off Air

OneNewsNow reports that many Christian radio stations in Guatemala have been forced to go off the air thanks to secular radio's pressure on the government. "Over the past four years, the Congress has received a lot of pressure from the secular radio station owners that they're losing revenue to the Christian stations as Christian stations are becoming more and more popular," one station owner reported. Radio licenses in the country as so expensive that many missions and churches decide to operate on community frequencies, which are similar to the U.S. non-commercial FM band. Stations have recently come under fire from local police, and the Congress has taken no action.

World Youth Day Launches in Sydney

According to the Associated Press, this year's Catholic World Youth Day festival in Sydney wins the title of the largest Christian festival in the world. Almost 250,000 people registered for the event, more than half of whom were from overseas. Half a million people are expected to attend the closing mass on Sunday, which will be led by the Pope. So far the events - rites including Holy Communion, hymn singing and a sermon - have been administrated by Sydney's Archbishop Cardinal George Pell, and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, a devoted Anglican, also welcomed the pilgrims to the Sydney Harbor. The event opened Tuesday as groups of 168 countries processed to Mass. The festival is a celebration of the Catholic faith aimed at revitalizing the church, and has been hosted by a different city around the world every couple of years since 1986.

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Title: Uzbekistan: Man May Get 15-Year Sentence for Reading Bible
Post by: nChrist on July 17, 2008, 02:36:01 PM
Uzbekistan: Man May Get 15-Year Sentence for Reading Bible
Jeremy Reynalds


July 17, 2008

UZBEKISTAN -- A Protestant from the Karakalpakstan area of north-west Uzbekistan faces criminal trial later in July on charges of teaching religion without official approval, and establishing or participating in a state dubbed "religious extremist" organization.

According to a story by Forum 18's Mushfig Bayram, the news service learned this from the investigator in the case Bahadur Jakbaev.

One of the two charges Aimurat Khayburahmanov faces -- establishing or participating in a "religious extremist" organization -- carries a penalty of up to 15 years imprisonment. Jakbaev denied reports from local Protestants reaching Forum 18 that Khayburahmanov has been beaten in prison since his June 14 arrest. He claimed his health is "fine."

According to Forum 18, Karakalpakstan Region operates a very harsh religious policy, with all non state-controlled Muslim and non-Russian Orthodox activity being a criminal offence.

Asked what behavior in Khayburahmanov's activity characterizes him as an "extremist," Jakbaev told Forum 18 that he gathered people in his home and read "prohibited" Christian literature, as determined by the Karakalpakstan Religious Affairs Committee.

"The Bible is not prohibited in Uzbekistan, but there are Christian books that are," Jakbaev told Forum 18.

Asked by Forum18 which "prohibited" books Khayburahmanov had been reading, Jakbaev refused to say. All he would say was that the Religious Affairs Committee expert analysis had found them to be banned. He insisted that imprisonment is not too harsh a punishment for reading "prohibited" Christian books.

Jakbaev told Forum 18 that Khayburahmanov has been charged under two articles of the Criminal Code. The first is Article 229-2, which punishes teaching religion without proper education or permission with a sentence of up to three years imprisonment.

The second was Article 244-2, part 1, which punishes establishing or participating in a "religious extremist" organization with a sentence of between five and 15 years imprisonment.

Local Protestants believe Khayburahmanov is being prosecuted to allow the police later to charge another Nukus-based Protestant, Jandos Kuandikov.

"Actually the police are mainly trying to put Jandos in prison," one Protestant who knows Khayburahmanov told Forum 18. He added, "Aimurat would then be considered as Jandos' accomplice."

The Protestant told Forum 18 that the police did not allow any visits to Khayburahmanov until two days earlier.

"I heard that Aimurat was beaten many times and forced to write a statement implicating Jandos," he said. Khayburahmanov's body was "covered with bruises" from beatings, the Protestant said he was told.

Jakbaev, the investigator, denied that the police had not allowed visits to Khayburahmanov in the isolation cell. "His friend and father just came to visit him," he told Forum 18.

Forum 18 reported that eight police officers raided Kuandikov's home in Nukus on June 14, claiming to be conducting an identity check. Although Kuandikov was not at home, Khayburahmanov was there, helping the Kuandikov family prepare for a local wedding.

After Kuandikov returned to his house, he asked the police to show documents authorizing the identity check. The house search lasted until 9 p.m. Police confiscated books, notebooks, videocassettes of weddings and a computer. They also took Kuandikov's passport. Kuandikov, Khayburahmanov and several relatives were then taken to the police station, where they were questioned. Everyone except Khayburahmonov were freed at 1 a.m. the next day.

Forum 18 said the news service tried to find out from Karakalpakstan's Religious Affairs Committee why some Christian books are prohibited in Uzbekistan, but phone calls to the committee were not answered.

Forum 18 said the man who answered the phone at the government's Religious Affairs Committee in the capital city Tashkent refused to answer any questions about Khayburahmanov's arrest and forthcoming trial. He told Forum 18 that they do not give telephone interviews, and hung the phone up.

One Protestant told Forum 18 that Kuandikov's passport, computer and other confiscated property have still been not returned to him. The passport had been confiscated by a police officer named Fayzulla (last name unknown).

"He asked Fayzulla for his passport back," the Protestant told Forum 18. "But Fayzulla told him that Bahadur Jakbaev, the investigator in Aimurat's case, has it." The Protestant said that Kuandikov feels he is being "kicked around like a football" by the authorities.

Jakbaev claims that he has already given Kuandikov's passport to the local police. "Kuandikov should contact his local police and talk to them," he told Forum 18.

Asked by Forum 18 if criminal charges are being brought against Kuandikov as well, Jakbaev said that only administrative charges are being brought against him. He refused to specify exactly what charges.

Meanwhile, Protestants who spoke on condition of anonymity told Forum 18 that several members of a Protestant congregation in the central city of Samarkand have been facing renewed harassment from officials. They said that officials from the Prosecutor's Office have visited church members homes since early July, threatened them and summoned them for questioning.

"As they never present their summonses in writing the church members refuse to go," one Protestant told Forum 18. "But there's no guarantee that they won't seize people on the street."

Forum 18 said that the head of Uzbekistan's Jewish community, Chief Rabbi Abe David Gurevich, finally left Uzbekistan on June 5 after the Justice Ministry refused to renew the accreditation for him and his wife Malka to work in the country. Their visas also expired.

"His return to the country depends on whether or not he will get a visa from the Uzbek authorities," a Jewish representative told Forum 18.

The news service said that Russian-born Gurevich, who carries a United States and an Israeli passport, had worked in Uzbekistan since 1990. The refusal to allow him to continue working there came despite an appeal to the Justice Ministry signed in April by nearly 90 members of Tashkent's Jewish community.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 17, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 17, 2008, 02:37:58 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 17, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Parts of New Orleans Still Struggle
    * Muslim-Led UN Resolution Draws Criticism
    * Zimbabwe: Christian Leaders Say Country Is Deteriorating
    * Mass. Senate OK's Out-of-State Gay 'Marriages'

 

Parts of New Orleans Still Struggle

Baptist Press reports that in many ways, New Orleans is coming back. The economy, fueled by rebuilding efforts and open seaports to the Gulf of Mexico, registers unemployment at 3.8 percent. And the annual Jazz and Heritage Festival drew more than 400,000 people this spring. But vital statistics don't tell the whole story. For every freshly painted, spick-and-span rebuild in residential streets, there are three, maybe four, that look dilapidated. The letters TFW (toxic flood water) are still spray-painted on some from 2005. Don Snipes, the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention's onsite coordinator for Southern Baptists' Operation NOAH (New Orleans Area Hope) Rebuild effort, said NOAH could continue for another decade and still have work to do. City population in March was estimated at 71.8 percent of its pre-Katrina level, but "Some people have been on waiting lists [for rebuild assistance] for two years," Snipes said. A constant and pressing need is skilled-labor volunteers such as electricians and plumbers.

Muslim-Led UN Resolution Draws Criticism

OneNewsNow reports that a U.N. resolution sponsored by dozens of Muslim nations undercuts the ability to speak against Islam. "[The Islamic Conference has] put forward what's called a '[Combating] Defamation of Religions' resolution which would amend the U.N.'s Declaration of Human Rights and would make it a criminal act and violation of international law to 'defame another religion,'" explains Jay Sekulow of the American Center for Law & Justice. Islam is the only religion explicitly named as "another religion." "[Combating]o there's nothing about preventing the defamation of Christianity," the attorney warns, "which means if you were spreading the gospel, it would be deemed defamatory towards Islam and would be [Combating] a crime." He worries that the resolution will "literally change the entire scope of human rights law on an international basis." Americans may sign a petition against the resolution on the ACLJ Web site.

Zimbabwe: Christian Leaders Say Country Is Deteriorating

Christian leaders in Zimbabwe warn that unless something changes, Zimbabwe will be the next African country to experience large-scale genocide, the Christian Post reports. Leaders of the Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops' Conference, and the Zimbabwe Council of Churches report that inflation, famine, and violence are only increasing after the recent elections. "People are being abducted, tortured, humiliated by being asked to repeat slogans of the political party they are alleged not to support, ordered to attend mass meetings where they are told they voted for the 'wrong' candidate and should never repeat it in the run-off election for President, and, in some cases, people are murdered," the church leaders said in a statement. They continued, "The shops are empty and basic foodstuffs are unavailable," the leaders informed. "Victims of organized torture who are ferried to hospital find little solace as the hospitals have no drugs or medicines to treat them."

Mass. Senate OK's Out-of-State Gay 'Marriages'

According to the Christian Post, a state senate vote on Tuesday may make Massachusetts the next state to provide marriage licenses to out-of-state homosexual couples. The senate voted to repeal a 1913 law that prohibits couples from obtaining marriage licenses if they may not legally marry in their home states. A 2006 State Supreme Court ruling upheld the law as constitutional and not racially discriminatory - critics say the law was meant to bar out-of-state interracial couples - and former Gov. Mitt Romney enforced the law after Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriages. "The Massachusetts Senate has no right to infringe on the internal issues of how other states define marriage," said Kris Mineau, president of the Massachusetts Family Institute, according to the Associated Press.
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Title: Welcome, Churches, to the World Wide Web
Post by: nChrist on July 19, 2008, 07:07:53 AM
Welcome, Churches, to the World Wide Web
Robert Wayne


July 18, 2008

Even at a small Ohio church, where 100 or so attendees gather each Sunday morning, it's possible to enter a room and find the whole world waiting.

David Mabry wants to walk through the door into that room. The 37-year-old pastor of Orange Road Evangelical Friends Church has a vision to bring blogs, worship samples, sermons and whatever other Internet resources that can benefit the church into his building.

"It's imperative for communicating with the audience of today," said Mabry, whose Columbus-area congregation is a highly-educated group that values various forms of emerging technology for communicating the gospel.

As the world widens through the Web, it would seem that churches are enlarging their technical efforts as well. As a recent Barna Group survey shows, the ways in which Protestant churches are implementing the Internet are expanding.

In 2000, only one-third of churches (34 percent) had a Web site, while 57 percent had one by 2005. The latest research pushes the number to 62 percent.

The statistics do show differences between large (more than 250 adults attending per week), mid-size (100 to 250 adults) and smaller (less than 100) churches. Nine out of 10 larger churches (91 percent) operate a Web site, while the number drops to 75 percent for mid-size churches and 48 percent for small churches.

Part of the statistical variation is age related, as smaller churches tend to attract older attendees who do not feel as comfortable with or are even suspicious of the Internet.

"Certainly there is a great deal of skepticism among leaders about the role that technology ought to play," said David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group. "Some skepticism and unwillingness to see how technology is deeply imbedded in the hearts and minds and lifestyles of people."

While there are potential dangers involved with the Internet, there also are positives that cannot be ignored, Kinnaman said.

"It is a voice, a means for (young people) to express themselves," he said. "It empowers them to care about the world. While on one hand there are a great number of things you can criticize, such as access to pornography and instant gratification and the ability to facilitate a false image of self, we also fail to realize the massive potential it serves."

The Internet is an avenue to achieve a ministry's purpose, he said, adding that the Web even can viewed positively in the scriptural sense, since "We are a priesthood of believers ... with each people having a voice."

Those voices are turning up everywhere as churches move even further into the modern information age by connecting with such social networking sites as MySpace and Facebook.

Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago keeps its estimated 23,000 attendees connected through e-mails and podcasts and also through blogs and social networking sites. Keeping everyone feeling cared for became essential when the church added four regional campuses to the central site, so pastors began using social media avenues, said Susan DeLay, media relations manager for Willowcreek.

"It's more on an individual grass-roots level, similar to how it functions on the Internet," DeLay said. "They are building relationships with people, some of whom never want to go to church, especially a large church where they think they'll get swallowed up whole."

It may seem a contradiction to some, but in essence pastors are providing a personal touch through what some consider to be an impersonal medium.

It's all about increasing interaction and reaching out, Kinnaman said, pointing out how the Barna survey showed more people posting comments on other blogs than on their own. The research also revealed that people over age 40 use no more than four communication technologies, while those in their 20s and 30s use eight. Age 23 and under typically rely on 11.

"What comes to the fore is that Christian young people are more like their peers who are non-Christian than they are like Christians who are older," said Kinnaman, explaining emerging technology trends. "Technology is a real leveling force with young people because they have more global awareness of connectiveness."

Mabry thinks social networking is a must for youth pastors.

"Absolutely essential," he said, explaining that his church's youth ministry has a name on Facebook where young adults can go to receive messages and ministry information.

At the same time, the current technology is increasingly a dividing wall between age groups, Kinnaman said.

Maybe so, but Mabry shared an example of cross-generational connection that backs the Barna Group conclusion that new technology is here to stay, whether that means churches installing video screens in the sanctuary or using satellite feeds to feature off-site events from two continents away.

"Our e-mail prayer update is sent out by a 90-year-old woman who is more savvy on a computer than most other people in our church," Mabry said.

More of a drawback than generational issues are staffing issues at smaller churches. Finding highly-trained professionals to fill the roles of sound technician, Web monitor and videographer can prove difficult. That may explain the Barna results showing that technology may be slowing as some churches focus on making the most of what they have.  and Other churches hope to get by without adding technology tools in the first place.

George Barna himself, however, advised churches not to fight against the machine, saying that to do so would be counterproductive.

"The Internet has become one of the pivotal communications and community-building tools of our lifetime," he said. "Churches are well-advised to have an intelligent and foresighted Internet strategy in order to facilitate meaningful ministry."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 18, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 19, 2008, 07:09:55 AM
Religion Today Summaries - July 18, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Pope Tells Anglicans to 'Find Road Together'
    * India: State Admits Few Complaints for 'Forced Conversions'
    * Study: Who Really Are the 'Unchurched'?
    * Audio Bible Wins 'Christian Book of the Year' Award

 

Pope Tells Anglicans to 'Find Road Together'

Pope Benedict XVI has taken an unprecedented step to demonstrate his concern for the Anglican Communion, sending three Catholic cardinals to join the Anglican Communion's Lambeth Conference, the UK Christian Today reports. The two communions have been worked for closer ties over the past three decades, but issues such as homosexual ordination and female clergy in the Anglican Communion has jeopardized those hopes. "The words and the message of Christ are what offer the real contribution to Lambeth and only in being faithful to the message... and God's words can we find a mature way... to find a road together," said the Pope in his message this week to Dr. Rowan Williams, the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury.

India: State Admits Few Complaints for 'Forced Conversions'

Compass Direct News reports that the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party government in Gujarat state has disclosed that there were only three complaints of alleged "forcible" conversions in the state in the last 10 years, and only two of those concerned Christian conversions. The state Home Department made the embarrassing disclosure after Samson Christian, a leader of the All India Christian Council, sought the information under the Right to Information Act of 2005. "The Home Department said two of the three complaints were concerning Christian conversions," Christian told Compass. "One was filed in 2007, and the other in 1997." The BJP government's reluctant admission coincided with the notification of the rules under the Gujarat Freedom of Religion Act of 2003 on July 10. The rules were framed on April 1, and their notification was the last formality in the implementation of the law.

Study: Who Really Are the 'Unchurched'?

The Christian Post reports that a new study by Ellison Research is redefining what it means to be "unchurched," which may have big implications for church outreach strategies. "There's often an assumption that people either do attend worship services, or they don't," said Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research. People who consistently attend a worship service at least once a month are considered "churched." The survey showed that 63 percent of these "churched people" attend church at least weekly. Among the "unchurched," 18 percent say they visit occasionally, and 22 percent attend special occasions such as Christmas. Sixty percent of the unchurched do not attend at all. According to the study, a family history of attendance and religious involvement was linked to adult attendance.

Audio Bible Wins 'Christian Book of the Year' Award

The Word of Promise New Testament Audio Bible from Thomas Nelson Publishers became the first audio book to win the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association's "Christian Book of the Year" award, according to the Wall Street Journal. The Bible/audio recording features the features the talents of actors such as Jim Caviezel ("The Passion of the Christ"), Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach, Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Lou Gossett, Jr., and Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei, in a scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) of the New Testament. The award, announced July 13 at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Orlando, is based on independent judging criteria and sales data.
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Title: Pakistan: Court Grants Custody to Girls' Kidnappers
Post by: nChrist on July 22, 2008, 03:04:34 AM
Pakistan: Court Grants Custody to Girls' Kidnappers
Compass Direct News


July 21, 2008

ISTANBUL  -- A Pakistani couple has appealed a court decision to award custody of their two daughters, 10 and 13, to the children's alleged kidnappers. The court based its custody decision on the girls' conversion to Islam.

Judge Main Naeem Sardar ruled Saturday (July 12) that Saba Masih, 13, and Aneela Masih, 10, had become Muslims, invalidating their Christian parents' right to legal guardianship.

"He said that because the parents are Christians and because the girls told the court that they adopted Islam, their relationship has ceased," lawyer Rashid Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) told Compass. Under a common interpretation of Islamic law, a Christian cannot have custody of a Muslim.

The sisters appeared in a Muzaffargarh District and Sessions court in the company of 16 Muslim men and were given five minutes to testify that their conversion was genuine, human rights activist Ashfaq Fateh said. It was the first time that Younis Masih and his wife had seen their daughters since they disappeared on June 26 while traveling to their uncle's nearby home in Sarwar Shaheed, 150 miles southwest of Lahore.

Saba Masih told the court that she and her younger sister had been inspired by Islam and had run away to Muhammed Arif Bajwa, whom the parents say kidnapped the children near their uncle's home. Stating her age as 17, Saba Masih said she had changed her name to Fatma Bibi, a traditional Muslim name, and married a Muslim man, Amjad Ali. Under Pakistani law a woman can marry without the approval of legal guardians at the age of 16.

"The judge did not give me even a minute to speak with my daughters," Younis Masih told rights activist Ashfaq Fateh. "My girls have been with these men for the last 20 days; they have pressured them to change their minds."

The children's parents were neither allowed to testify nor submit birth certificates and school records as evidence of the girls' true ages.

"Will she herself determine what her age is?" said lawyer Rehman, who appealed the case to the Lahore High Court's branch in Multan city.

Justice Saghir Ahmed today summoned the two children and Saba Masih's new husband Ali to an initial appeal hearing set for July 29. Rehman said he believed the court would only take into consideration the fact that the girls are minors and therefore legally belong with their mother.

After his two daughters disappeared last month, Younis Masih was summoned to the local police station on June 28. Muhammad Arif Bajwa and Ali had registered a case with police for custody of Masih's daughters based on their conversion to Islam.

Station House Officer Imtiaz Chagwani refused the father's request to register a kidnapping case.

Muzaffargarh SP Investigation official Chaudry Tajeen said he was unable to comment on why Chagwani refused to file the complaint when Compass contacted him yesterday. He confirmed that Chagwani has since been replaced by Munawar Gulzar at the Sarwar Shaheed police station, but was unavailable when Compass called back for further details.

Younis Masih fears that his daughters' new guardians have sexually abused them and claims that the men run a prostitution ring. Lawyer Rehman said that though there is no hard evidence to prove these claims, the father's fears are legitimate.

"Contracting marriage with a minor girl could mean that they want to have control of her with the intention of child prostitution or something else..." the lawyer said.

According to the HRCP's most recent annual report on human rights in Pakistan, "crime against children, especially kidnapping," remains a serious problem. In Muzaffargarh district, where Aneela and Saba Masih lived, 24 children were freed in March 2007 from a "mini-jail" at an Islamic seminary, where they had been tortured and sodomized, the HRCP reported.

According to Rehman, religious minorities are an easy target for kidnappers both because they are typically underprivileged and because of religious bias against them.

"Local police and judges have their subconscious mindset that if you help Muslims [in such cases], it's a very noble cause and a very religious cause," the lawyer said.

Christians make up less than 2 percent of Pakistan's 168 million citizens.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 21, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 22, 2008, 03:06:36 AM
Religion Today Summaries - July 21, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Cali. Marriage Amendment to Stay on Ballot
    * Anglican Head Says Bishop Boycott 'Wounds' Summit
    * Algeria: Blasphemy Case Postponed
    * Saudi King Initiates Interfaith Conference

 

Cali. Marriage Amendment to Stay on Ballot


Two months after issuing its landmark "gay marriage" decision, the California Supreme Court handed conservatives a victory July 16, allowing a proposed constitutional marriage amendment to stay on the November ballot. Without comment the justices denied to hear a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others that sought to prevent the initiative - which easily qualified for the ballot with 1.1 million submitted signatures - from going before voters. Although their legal ground was shaky, pro-family attorneys were still worried after the May ruling. The amendment is known as Proposition 8 and, if passed, would reverse the 4-3 decision that made California only the second state to recognize "gay marriage." In late June more than 1,600 pastors and church leaders gathered at roughly 100 sites for a conference call to pray for and plan strategy for the amendment's success.

Anglican Head Says Bishop Boycott 'Wounds' Summit

Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams called it a "great grief" that more than 200 bishops elected not to join the once-a-decade Lambeth conference, the Christian Post reports. The absent conservatives, who make up about one fourth of the world's Anglican bishops, declined invitations to Lambeth because several U.S. leaders who ordained Robinson are in attendance. Nonetheless, Williams encouraged participants to focus on their schedule, which include no formal votes but is meant to foster small group discussions. "I don't imagine that simply building relationships solves our problems," he told bishops at a closed-door prayer retreat Wednesday. "But the nature of our calling as Christians is such that we dare not, and I say very strongly, dare not pretend that we can meet and discuss without attention to this quality of relation with each other even if we disagree."

Algeria: Blasphemy Case Postponed

Compass News reports that three Algerian Christians fighting a blasphemy sentence arrived at court in northwestern Algeria on Tuesday (July 15) to find that their hearing was postponed until October 21 because the presiding judge was on vacation. Rachid Muhammad Essaghir, Youssef Ourahmane and a third man were charged in February with "blaspheming the name of the Prophet [Muhammad] and Islam" and threatening the life of a man who claimed to have converted to Christianity but who "returned" to Islam when his Islamic fundamentalist ties were exposed. The accuser, Shamouma Al-Aid, has links with Islamic fundamentalists, according to the defendants. "He was in touch with fanatics while with us," said Ourahmane. "He used us to get money and information."

Saudi King Initiates Interfaith Conference

Last week King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia convened an interfaith conference that targeted extremism, not religion, as the cause of historical turmoil, but some attendees wonder if he is in earnest, according to the New York Sun. The three day conference attracted more than 200 religious leaders, and marked the first time a Saudi monarch had invited Jewish rabbis to a religious conference, the Sun noted. Abdullah took unprecedented steps to greet rabbis, priests and other faith leaders, which could be a direction for moderation among the fundamentalist Wahhabi movement of Sunni Islam. The conference ended Thursday, however, with only vague suggestions that Abdullah will continue to combat extremism in Saudi Arabia.

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Title: China Pastor, Wife Forced From Home
Post by: nChrist on July 23, 2008, 02:15:25 AM
China Pastor, Wife Forced From Home
Baptist Press Staff

July 22, 2008

BEIJING (BP)--A leader among China's unregistered house churches and his wife have been forced from their home and hounded from shelter to shelter by Chinese authorities since July 6, according to the human rights group China Aid Association. The only explanation given by officials for the couple's treatment was that the pastor "met the Americans and destroyed the harmony of the Beijing Olympic Games."

Bike Zhang, chairman of the Federation House Church and his wife Xie Fenglan were forced to leave their home in Beijing's Chaoyang district by officials of the Public Security Bureau, according to a China Aid Association report July 18. When authorities learned the couple had found shelter in the home of a friend, they forced the Zhangs to leave.

A hotel owner in another district allowed the Zhangs to take up extended residence in his facility but on July 14 officials with the security bureau in that city threatened the hotel owner with incarceration if he did not evict the couple. When the Zhangs traveled to another city to find a place to stay, they were stopped en route by police officials and taken to the town's government offices for interrogation, the CAA report said.

Police officers interrogated the couple constantly throughout the night, without food, drink or rest. At 6 a.m., Xie Fenglan collapsed but was not taken to the hospital until 11 a.m., CAA said. After she had recovered enough to travel, the couple was released from custody and went to a hotel, where they again were accosted and forced to leave town. After police prevented several more attempts to find shelter, Zhang took his wife to her sister's home in another province and found lodging for himself at a local hotel. On July 16, police there followed Zhang when he went out to buy medicine for his wife, and she was forced to move out of her sister's home.

At last report, Zhang and his wife were living on the streets, unable to find shelter. When the China Aid Association asked why the couple was being treated in that manner, they were told: "Because Bike Zhang met the Americans and destroyed the harmony of the Beijing Olympic Games."

"This egregious treatment of one of China's most respected and well-loved house church leaders is a shocking and outright violation of basic human rights and rule of law," CAA's Bob Fu said in a statement. "The Chinese government has shown neither remorse nor discretion in violating United Nations and international mandates to grant citizens basic human liberties such as shelter and protection.

"The acts against Pastor Bike Zhang and his wife are unjust and unlawful," the statement continued. "This type of behavior ... is reflective of a dictatorship with no regard for the well-being of its citizens and not a world leader worthy of the honor of hosting the Olympic Games."

Another Chinese Protestant, Shi Weihan, remains in the custody of Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau on the grounds that he is a "dangerous religious element," the China Aid Association said. Weihan is married with two young daughters, one of whom is an American citizen.

Shi, a Christian publisher, has been held for four months. He was arrested in November 2007 for "illegal business practices" but released in January after authorities determined there was insufficient evidence to support the charge. He was re-arrested March 19 for allegedly printing unauthorized Bibles and Christian literature.

"Despite having held Mr. Shi beyond the time legally allowed, absent formal charges or a court hearing, the PSB still refuses to allow his family or attorney to see him," a CAA spokesman said. "Claiming an ongoing investigation in what they are calling 'a complex case,' they have managed to hold the owner of a legally registered Christian bookstore in an undisclosed location without giving any assurances that he is receiving his needed diabetic medicine."

The China Aid Association "urges the international community and those concerned to voice their objection of these acts to the Chinese government," Fu said.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 22, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 23, 2008, 02:18:14 AM
Religion Today Summaries - July 22, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Saddleback Church to Host McCain, Obama
    * Iran: Tortured Christian Flees
    * Dobson Shifts, May Endorse McCain
    * Churches Unite in Mass Vigils for N. Korean Refugees

 

Saddleback Church to Host McCain, Obama

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama, respective presumed Republican and Democratic presidential nominees, will end the primary season by making their first joint appearance of the 2008 campaign at Saddleback Church on Saturday, Aug.16 at the Saddleback Civil Forum on Leadership and Compassion, according to a press release by RickWarrenNews.com. "This is a critical time for our nation and the American people deserve to hear both candidates speak from the heart -- without interruption -- in a civil and thoughtful format absent the partisan 'gotcha' questions that typically produce heat instead of light," said Dr. Rick Warren, founding pastor of the California mega church and moderator for the event. Warren will be sole moderator, and has said he will raise questions "beyond what political reporters typically ask," covering topics such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate and human rights.

Iran: Tortured Christian Flees


Compass Direct News reports that days after his release from a month of interrogations and severe torture under secret police custody, Iranian Christian Mohsen Namvar has fled across the border into Turkey with his family. Traveling by train, the badly beaten Christian arrived July 2 in eastern Turkey with his wife and son. Namvar, 44, had been held incommunicado by a branch of Sepah (the Iranian Revolutionary Guards) from May 31 until June 26, when authorities told his family they were releasing him "temporarily." Although the secret police demanded $43,000 in bail, officers refused to issue a court receipt for the family's cash payment. At the time of his release, Namvar was experiencing fever, severe back pain, extremely high blood pressure, uncontrollable shaking of his limbs and recurring short-term memory loss. "I have no doubt they wanted to kill me," Namvar told Compass.

Dobson Shifts, May Endorse McCain


Christian conservative leader Dr. James Dobson has reversed his earlier rejection of Republican presumptive nominee John McCain, and may go even further than that, according to the Associated Press. "I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said in a radio broadcast to air Monday. "... While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might." The statement was part of a radio broadcast with Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dobson said that while neither candidate is consistent with his views, "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation." Dobson also said that McCain's choice of running mate may influence an endorsement.

Churches Unite in Mass Vigils for N. Korean Refugees


The Christian Post reports that 43 Korean Church Coalition churches nationwide held prayer vigils last night for the "voiceless" North Korean refugees in China, joining more than a thousand KCC churches in South Korea that night. These refugees are frequently abused, trafficked or violently repatriated by Chinese authorities, according to reports. "Through these vigils, KCC will speak on and pray on behalf of the voiceless, the North Korean refugees residing in China, who have no voice of their own," said Sam Kim, executive director of KCC. The vigils were part of a campaign to raise awareness during the Beijing Olympics, called "Let My People Go Before 2008 Beijing Olympics." According to KCC president the Rev. Peter I. Sohn, China has refused to grant refugees even the minimal protection offered by international law.
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Title: China: 'Anti-Cult' Group Raids Church Member's House
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:43:56 PM
China: 'Anti-Cult' Group Raids Church Member's House
Michael Ireland


July 23, 2008

SHANGDONG PROVINCE, CHINA (ANS) -- Public Security Bureau officials, along with an "anti-cult group," on July 14, 2008 in Jining City, Shandong, investigated Lu Xiaoai, a member of pastor Zhang Zhongxin's church. Pastor Zhang was sentenced to two years reeducation-through-labor on July 4.

China Aid Association (CAA) says the policemen seized Bibles and Christian material from Lu. At the same time, policemen in Rencheng district broke into Brother Li Dali's home and forcibly detained Christian books and a CD-ROM.

According to CAA, police summoned another church member named Li Da, but were unable to obtain information from him due to a medical condition. Officials also investigated church member Lian Dehai. Lian was later taken to the City Public Security Bureau and was placed under criminal detention. Police then raided his home and withheld Christian material and a CD ROM.

China Aid Association urges all brothers and sisters in the Lord, to pray for pastor Zhang, and those associated with him who have been unjustly and unfairly persecuted and detained for their beliefs.

CAA calls on Chinese authorities to immediately stop the persecution of these Christians.
________________________________


Title: Christian Woman in Eritrean Prison Dies of Malaria
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:46:10 PM
Christian Woman in Eritrean Prison Dies of Malaria
Special to Compass Direct

July 24, 2008

LOS ANGELES -- Imprisoned and tortured for her Christian faith since December, 37-year-old Azib Simon died of malaria in Eritrea's Wi'a Military Training Center last week.

Weakened by ongoing torture, sources said, Simon contracted malaria only a week before she died. Christians in the prison are rarely given medical attention, and the sources said authorities refused to provide treatment for Simon's malaria.

Simon was the sister of former Eritrean television journalist Biniam Simon, who recently fled the country after abandoning his career at government controlled ERI-TV.

Azib Simon had attended the Kale-Hiwet Church in Assab, one of the independent evangelical churches that have been targeted by the country's Marxist-leaning authoritarian regime. She was held at the notorious Wi'a Military Training Center, 20 miles south of the Red Sea port of Massawa, since her arrest in December 2007.

Prisoners at the Wi'a military camp are under constant pressure to recant their faith.

On June 8 Compass learned that eight Christian brothers held at the Adi-Quala prison were taken to the medical emergency facilities as a result of torture by military personnel at the camp.

Simon's death makes a total of five Christians whom Compass has confirmed have died in Eritrean prisons after being tortured for refusing to recant their faith. On September 5, 2007, Eritrean authorities at the Wi'a Military Training Center tortured Nigisti Haile, 33, to death for refusing to recant her faith. On February 15, 2007, Magos Solomon Semere also died under torture at the Adi-Nefase Military Confinement facility outside Assab.

In 2006, two other Christians -- Immanuel Andegergesh, 23, and Kibrom Firemichel, 30 -- died from torture wounds in Eritrea on October 17.

Since 2002 the oppressive regime has outlawed all independent Protestant churches, closing their buildings and banning gatherings in private homes. Worshippers caught disobeying the blanket restrictions are arrested and tortured for weeks, months or even years. They are never allowed legal counsel or brought to trial.

The government only recognizes Islam and Eritrean Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran Christian denominations as "historical" legal religions. High ranking clergy have been replaced by the government's choice of men, and many believe the clampdown is an attempt of President Isaias Afwerki's government to control church members.

It is estimated that more than 1,000 Christians are imprisoned at any given time. Many of the arrests of Christians take place in groups when the government breaks up local house meetings.

It was not clear how Simon was arrested or where she was at the time of her detention last December.

Under Attack in Assabe

Another round-up of Christians in the port city of Assab took place earlier this month, sources told Compass.

Sources said authorities were singling out Pentecostal believers, among other evangelicals, whom they arrested with the intention of pressuring them to recant their faith.

On July 8 alone, six members of the Kale-Hiwet Church, 11 members of the Full Gospel Church in Assab and 15 members of the Rema Church in Assab were arrested at their homes one by one and imprisoned in the Wi'a military camp. Among them were seven women, one of them a known evangelist of the Kale-Hiwet Church in Eritrea, whose name was withheld for the safety of her family.

One of the arrested women, a member of the Berhane Hiwet Church, was taken to the Adi-Abyto Military Camp and released on bail on July 9. Her bail was 50,000 nakfa, (approximately US$3,400), and authorities warned her not to participate in Christian activities in the future.

Eritrean authorities also arrested nine leaders of a Jehovah's Witnesses group on Wednesday July 16 in Asmara, Compass confirmed.

The nine leaders are held at Mai Serwa Military Camp, known for its harsh torture and conditions. It is believed that the government has intensified hunting of Jehovah's Witnesses' main leaders because it is angry that the group is still organized and active in the country.

Since the Eritrean referendum in 1992, followers of the Jehovah's Witnesses in Eritrea have been under constant attack, succumbing to arrests and torture.
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Title: A Cry from Iran: Brothers Honor Father's Martyrdom - Part 1
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:49:20 PM
A Cry from Iran: Brothers Honor Father's Martyrdom - Part 1
Michael Ireland

July 25, 2008

SANTA ANA, CA - Two brothers, a murdered father and an untold story of pain and forgiveness are the inspirations behind a six times award-winning documentary on the secret death of a prominent evangelical pastor in Iran, Haik Hovsepian.

The movie is the untold story of Iranian Christian martyrs, and Christian converts, who became the victims of their beliefs and paid the ultimate price -- their lives.

Two brothers from Iran, Joseph and Andre Hovsepian, who made the documentary "A Cry From Iran" about the life and work of their father, recently joined international journalist Dan Wooding as guests on his Front Page radio program on KWAVE 109.9 FM in Santa Ana, California. (The interview will be aired again this Sunday, July 27, 2008, at 5:00 PM Pacific Time. It can also be heard on http://www.kwve.com/.)

Their documentary is the story of Bishop Haik Hovsepian, who was the superintendent of the Assemblies of God and, later in his ministry, the representative of protestant churches in Iran.

Joseph Hovsepian explained: "Living with him for twenty years of course I've had a lot of good memories from him, but thirteen years ago in 1994 because of his faith and all he did for Christians and defending them, he one day disappeared and then we found him stabbed to death because of his faith."

Joseph continued: "After going through all the tragedy and comfort and different stages of forgiving (and) having a background in film industry, the idea of making this documentary started two years after the actual martyrdom. In 1996 we started gathering several documents and all the clips that I had shot when my dad was alive -- and at the time we didn't think that those clips could become so vital and important and the world would see them -- but praise the Lord with the support of the Holy Spirit and family and churches we came a long way, and two years ago with partnership with Open Doors we could officially start producing this documentary fulltime working with my brother on the board, and as a result 'A Cry from Iran' has been born."

On the question of who killed Haik Hovsepian, Joseph replied: "That's a good question. We hope that the audience, after watching the documentary, can judge and know the answer for themselves. We haven't pointed our fingers at any special person or group or government but, as we know, that our main enemy is the devil that works through people and not people themselves. But of course it's been very, very hard, very sad at times. During the editing process our goal was focus, was to see beyond our pain and memories, and see what this film can do for the people in the west who appreciate their freedom and to the people in Iran to see that the martyrs names still go on."

Andre Hovsepian said he was only ten years old when his father was martyred so he didn't have as much memory as Joseph and the rest of the family did.

"But I do definitely have a lot of memories still and a lot of pictures of him in my head because I was ten years old and I lived with him for ten years, but definitely besides memory what I heard about -- his life from other members of the church, from other family members -- really impacted me so much. And of course after making this documentary spending sometimes twelve, thirteen, fourteen hours a day, at times I think I saw more footage from him and clips and pictures than I'd seen in my ten years."

Wooding wanted to know what did Andre learn new about his father from making the movie? "When you started working on this movie 'A Cry' From Iran you must have been amazed that you found out all sort of new things about him," said Wooding.

"Yes, I did actually, and one thing that stood out I would say (was) the amount of passion and the vision that he had, because everything I believe starts from one person's vision and then does something to its community or results and is fruitful, and in the process of making this documentary I saw that vision that my dad had and at the end of course resulted in growing the zeal of Christians in Iran."

Joseph Hovsepian said the documentary is narrated by a well known award winning voice-over who did the Verizon Wireless commercial a few years ago.

He pointed out that when some people think of documentaries they think of boring talk and a program full of talks, whereas a lot of audiences have already said "A Cry From Iran" is a docu-drama.

"We're very glad that this film has not only won awards in the Christian awards but also has gone beyond that and even in the scope of human rights issues and freedom of religion, freedom of choice, has brought a lot of interest in (the situation in Iran), and we're very excited about that."

Joseph said they carried out a series of reenactments, shooting about two-hundred hours footage of his father, so in the last years of his life they had enough coverage. But the first part of his life and in covering the radical parts of country of Iran they had to reestablish (through reenactment), and the brothers had to travel to five countries and also five states in America.

"We have shot over thirty-five interviews and thirty-five hours of reenactment and the result has been fifty-five minutes of packed documentary, plus a lot of behind the scenes (footage)."

"Take us back to the period when there was all this trouble for your father. What led up to it?" Wooding asked.

Joseph responded that sadly the situation hasn't changed that much from that day to the present.

"But going back to 1993, the church at the time had big clashes with government officials and the church had to be closed down and my dad as superintendent of the churches in Iran was the front person in the battle and would always get involved in the situation. But it came to its climax in 1993 when Mehdi Dibaj, who was a Muslim convert and a Christian brother had served ten years in prison and he was to be executed for his faith. The only punishment for his conversion was basically dying for it and paying the price, and my dad stood against that execution order and brought it to the attention of the government officials in Iran and then took a bigger step to the Christian world outside, to the United Nations, and even involving the congress of the US. So as a result of his activities and campaign he was released and this was a big victory for the church of Iran, but soon after he had to pay a bigger price -- and that was his own life."

Wooding asked Andre to "take us the next step: what exactly happened to your dad?"

Andre said: "Basically what happened was that after several threats that we got in different ways, finally one day my dad was on his way to the airport to pick up a friend from church and he disappeared for eleven days. We had no news of him -- I mean you could only imagine how hard it was for us -- and of course I have to mention here that the whole church was very supportive internationally, worldwide. We received many, many support from different believers around the world and that of course helped us a lot to cope with the situation. But after eleven days, unfortunately, we received the call in which they said we need your eldest son (who was Joseph) to come and identify some pictures.

"That was from the morgue officials. Then, I won't get into details, but of course later on we found out that that he was killed and actually he was buried in a Muslim graveyard in which they only bury Muslim people."

Wooding asked Joseph, as the eldest brother, what that was like.
_______________________________


Title: A Cry from Iran: Brothers Honor Father's Martyrdom - Part 2
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:51:11 PM
A Cry from Iran: Brothers Honor Father's Martyrdom - Part 2

"As Andre said as hard as it was and even is right now to talk about it, we have captured all these moments in the documentary and when it gets to this part, the movie kind of slows down. You feel what a martyr's family goes through when such things happen. But for me, I think it was very shocking because it was the climax and very challenging point of my faith for the situation because I had trusted that God would protect his children in any situation, and this was something where we thought always and believed in, but maybe I hadn't seen the other side of the picture. Especially having such a faithful father whose ministry was very fruitful for God it was the last thing that passed my mind that in the morgue I would see the twenty-six times stabbed face of my dad and chest of my dad covered in blood. So I went in with the knowledge that he won't be there and in fact when we went through all the pictures of the albums he was not there but until the last minute before we left they said there's one more picture and we have already buried this man as an unidentified person, and that was my father."

Joseph continued: "I think at the time soon I got into this stage of kind of challenging God, and I was alone with the two police officers -- which were not too comforting either -- so I didn't cry at that time that much and then I walked home to my uncle's house because I didn't know how to share the news with my mother and my brother Andre (at the time was ten years old), and he was the first thing in my mind that in Iran at the time people there are not that many divorces so not having a father is also a very big deal there. And he came to my mind, and I just didn't know how to digest the situation and I think it kind of hit me a few hours after."

Andrew still remembers what he said.

"Yes, I remember exactly," said Andre. "Actually, it's very interesting if you saw the movie End of the Spear. I saw myself in that movie when the guy comes home and his son is upstairs and he just listens -- he puts his ear on the ground -- and listens from another room. That was exactly me in 1994 because I was in my room doing homework and then I heard Joseph coming in and I just ran to him and I saw his eyes, and that was enough for us to know what has happened. And then, of course, we hugged each other -- it was very emotional, very emotional -- but at the same time overall I have to say that I really do believe that if God let something happen for a reason He also takes care of you too. He's not a coward God; He's a very caring God in fact, and that's why He protected us."

Joseph said it was probably God's plan that during those eleven days they were very calm and believed that their father would be alive, maybe somewhere in interrogation, but were expecting him to be coming back.

"After that shock, I think we all went through several stages of (what) my mother calls the University of God, which you never in fact graduate from, you always keep learning. But I think the first stage was the hatred that we had towards the enemies, and it took us a good couple of months to start even thinking about (what had happened)."

Did the brothers want to get revenge somewhere?

"Yes," said Joseph, "I remember even in the very first days my mind was working that 'ok I have to pay them back, they have killed an innocent person.' But as my brother said, the support of the church and all the prayers that were coming from outside in the west and organizations including Open Doors that we are working now with (really helped). I think God really touched us and things went very smoothly and as a result it was a process of forgiveness; it was a process of not only forgiving and interceding and finally praising and being thankful."

The Hovsepian brothers said that one thing that always is alive and never dies is the peaceful spirit of God that works even when your tears are shedding. Something magical happens through the power of prayer.

Wooding asked Andre tell some of the lessons people can learn if they watch their movie "A Cry From Iran"?

Andre replied: "One of them, as you already mentioned, I think it stands out is the appreciation of life no matter what situation you're in, no matter if you have financial problems or someone in your family has a disease or anything like that, after watching this movie the first impact that I think that it leaves on you is that 'wow I have to appreciate my life. I have to appreciate this freedom that I have' and of course I have to make a note that Christians in the west are persecuted too in other ways, which maybe is a whole different topic. But at least it's not physical -- they don't take your life.

"Other feedback that we've gotten from people has been just simply the awareness, because a lot of people watch the news and they think that's all we need to know and that's all that's happening on this earth, in this universe. But after watching this movie, people are really more aware of what is happening in these third world countries."

Wooding wanted to know: "Are there other Christians and Christian leaders in Iran who are suffering like your dad did?"

"Sadly, yes," said Joseph. "And I should say that even in the past two months there were other house group leaders and Christians that were officially executed, and still there are groups that are always taken for interrogation and some have paid a price -- whether they lose their job or their kids can't go to school. But the fact is that what has changed during the past several years after the series of Iranian martyrs are how the Christians handle their faith and how they respond to the persecution. They pray for their enemies, they trust in the Lord more than ever, and my dad being an Armenian was not from a Muslim background, but defending Muslim background believers already left a great impact on them and they all say that if Armenians could give their lives to reach us through the message of the Gospel how much more we are ready to pay that. So they have become much more stronger than ever before."

How difficult is it for a Muslim in Iran to give their lives to Christ?

"Well it is very difficult actually," said Andre." Because of security reasons I think primarily, because once you do give your life to Jesus you're not only making a decision for yourself but also in a way you are somewhat endangering your family members. So I mean it's a whole different world out there than here. So I think as far as that goes it's the security comes in to line, but God leads them to do the right thing."

For both DVD information and screening information you can go to the official website which is www.acryfromiran.com.


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 23, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:54:48 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 23, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Christians Offer Hope to China Earthquake Victims
    * Group 'Ordains' Three Women as Priests
    * 'Focus on the Family' Inducted into Radio Hall of Fame
    * Power-Sharing Negotiations Begin with Mugabe



Christians Offer Hope to China Earthquake Victims

The Baptist Press reports that Christian workers who responded to a major earthquake in China are still at work, joining native Christians. In some cases, Christian aid workers were the first to respond to the May 12 quake in Sichuan province. And though the survivors' stories are heartbreaking, native Christians have quietly witnessed to their countrymen. Many of those in the hardest-hit areas have long been resistant to the Gospel, but Christians are reporting an openness and spiritual hunger that have not been seen previously. One worker wrote, "Chinese Christians must simply come, listen to the stories, love the survivors and offer them hope for the future. Some Chinese Christians are opening up their homes to the victims. Others from Beijing, Shanghai and other places around China are coming to give their time, money, love and hope." The 7.9 magnitude quake killed nearly 70,000 people and destroyed 5 million homes.

Group 'Ordains' Three Women as Priests

Three women have been "ordained" as priests in the Catholic church by a group not recognized by the Roman Catholic church at all, according to the Boston Globe. The Catholic church recently reiterated its position that only men may be ordained as priests, and the Archdiocese of Boston, where the ceremony took place Monday, said the women who participated had automatically excommunicated themselves. The ceremony was organized by Roman Catholic Womenpriests, an organization that believes female ordination is valid. After being vested with white chasubles and red stoles, the women presided over a service that included communion.

'Focus on the Family' Inducted into Radio Hall of Fame

The "Focus on the Family" radio program will soon be inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in the "national active" category, marking "at least 10 years of significant contributions to the industry on the national level." According to the Christian Post, however, multiple gay activists consider the inclusion of Dr. James Dobson, the group's founder, as an "affront" to the gay community due to his stance on homosexual marriage and other issues. The Christian Post reports that the program is heard on more than 1,000 stations across the United States by millions of listeners weekly, the 30-minute program is one of the largest and most respected resources for practical, emotional and spiritual support for families in the world.

Power-Sharing Negotiations Begin with Mugabe


Fox News reports that Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe will enter into power-sharing negotiations with opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai. Meanwhile, European Union diplomats have agreed to tighten sanctions against Mugabe in hopes of encouraging the deal with Tsvangirai. The Zimbabwe crisis has only deepened since elections in April, and state-sponsored violence since then has become widespread. Church officials in Zimbabwe fear the country may fall prey to a Rwanda-like genocide if the situation is not checked.

__________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 24, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:56:42 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 24, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Kazakhstan Weighs New Religion Restrictions
    * Grieved Presbyterians Seek Way Forward
    * PBS Documentary Suggests Exodus Not Real
    * India Christians Forced to Flee

 

Kazakhstan Weighs New Religion Restrictions

The Baptist Press reports that Kazakhstan, which already places burdens on religious organizations, will substantially increase restrictions on expressions of faith if new legislation becomes law, according to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. The former member of the Soviet bloc already requires religious groups to register with the government. Under current law, unregistered groups have to pay fines and supposedly "non-traditional" religious bodies are prohibited from registering or have their registration applications significantly delayed, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) reported. The new measure would increase the number of members a religious group must have to register from 10 to 50; prohibit smaller religious bodies from teaching or professing their faith, owning property or renting public buildings; and prohibit gifts from anonymous or foreign donors.

Grieved Presbyterians Seek Way Forward

Christian Post reports that conservative members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) are organizing to discuss the governing body's recent decision favoring homosexuality. In June, the General Assembly approved an "authoritative interpretation" of church order that removed a clause stating that marriage is between a man and a woman, among similar measures. The Assembly's actions "have caused a crisis of conscience within the denomination," said Renee Guth, executive director of the New Wineskins Association of Churches, a network of some 200 conservative Presbyterian churches discontent with the PC(USA). About 200 church leaders will attend the New Wineskins meeting in Atlanta on Aug. 6-7 ahead of their annual convention.

PBS Documentary Suggests Exodus Not Real

The Orlando Sentinel reports that a new PBS documentary, titled "The Bible's Buried Secrets," will upset anyone who claims a literal and inerrant interpretation of Scripture. "It challenges the Bible's stories if you want to read them literally, and that will disturb many people," says archaeologist William Dever, who specializes in Israel's history. The program goes on to discuss how the Bible was written by hundreds of authors in sixth century BC, at least five books of it during the Babylonian exile. The program also challenges Abraham, Sarah and their offspring as actual historical figures. Still, says Duke University religion professor Carol Meyers, "it doesn't mean that there's no kernel of truth to it."

India Christians Forced to Flee

In India's West Bengal state, local Christians and missionaries faced death threats for their faith, according to Mission News Network. Fourteen members of a Gospel for Asia church were severely beaten and forced to leave their homes on July 10, after being accused of forcing conversions and bringing an illness on the village. The mob threatened to kill the believers if they remained in the village. Village leader Negesh Rai brought the matter to the attention of local police, which led to calls for his resignation by protesting villagers. On July 16, the believers were removed to a different area for safety.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 25, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 25, 2008, 12:58:41 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 25, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Wristbands Remember Persecuted Chinese Christians
    * Iraqi Refugees Struggling After Leaving Homeland
    * Gay Bishop Dismisses Calls to Resign
    * Enns Leaves Westminster Theological Seminary

 

Wristbands Remember Persecuted Chinese Christians

Voice of the Martyrs and China Aid Association are encouraging Christians to wear "Pray for China" wristbands as the opening ceremonies approach, according to OneNewsNow. Reports of increased house church raids and imprisonment of Christians have trickled through government lines in a pre-Olympics crackdown. "The Chinese government wants this Olympic season to be a great coming-out party for the nation of China. So they are doing everything they can to keep Christians out of Beijing, especially those who would be inclined to protest or make any kind of public spectacle," VOM Spokesman Todd Nettleton said. "The Chinese government wants to ensure this Olympics goes on right on schedule, without a hitch." Wristbands can be ordered at the VOM and China Aid Association Web sites.

Iraqi Refugees Struggling After Leaving Homeland

Mission News Network reports that of the thousands of Iraqi Christians who have left their country, many are traumatized and struggling to cope without real support. Open Doors USA's Al Janssen said, "More than half of all the Christians have been displaced by the conflict. Certain Muslim extremist groups have taken opportunities to persecute Christians. Sometimes it's to grab their property or to kidnap them. So people have had to flee for their lives." Janssen and his team are trying to provide trauma counseling for these refugees, who are not used to expressing emotion or private thought in their honor culture. Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee has officially banned Iraqi athletes from competing in Beijing due to the Iraqi government's interference with its National Olympic Committee.

Gay Bishop Dismisses Calls to Resign

Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson has refused to step down in spite of the Anglican Archbishop of Sudan's calls for his resignation, the Christian Post reports. In a lengthy post on his blog, Robinson wrote that his resignation would not restore unity to the Anglican Communion. "Those calling for my resignation seem to be under the impression that if Gene Robinson went away, that all would go back to being 'like it was,' whatever that was! Does ANYONE think that if I resigned, this issue would go away?!" New Hampshire Bishop Gene Robinson said Wednesday in his blog. The New Hampshire bishop has lived openly with another man for 20 years and had a civil ceremony in June. The Anglican Communion, meanwhile, rejects homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture. He is in Canterbury as a "friendly reminder" during the Anglican Communion's once-a-decade Lambeth Conference, to which he was not invited.

Enns Leaves Westminster Theological Seminary

Westminster Theological Seminary professor Peter Enns and WTS issued a joint statement Wednesday announcing the end of his time with the seminary, eliminating the need for a dismissal hearing scheduled for Aug. 25, according to Christianity Today. Enns was suspended because of theological issues in his book, "Inspiration and Incarnation," and whether it fell within the bounds of the Westminster Confession of Faith. All WTS faculty must affirm that confession. According to the statement, Enns and the WTS administration both agreed to his leaving. It continued, "The administration wishes to acknowledge the valued role Prof. Enns has played in the life of the institution, and that his teaching and writings fall within the purview of Evangelical thought. The Seminary wishes Prof. Enns well in his future endeavors to serve the Lord."
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Title: Indonesian Pastor Battling Order to Demolish Home
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 02:50:22 PM
Indonesian Pastor Battling Order to Demolish Home
Edi Mujiono


July 28, 2008

JAKARTA -- Officials in Cipayung district, East Jakarta, have ordered Pastor Chris Ambessa of the Protestant Church of Indonesia to dismantle the newly constructed second floor of his home and to cease all religious activity in the area.

Ambessa's lawyer, August Pasaribu, told Compass on Monday (July 21) that he planned to submit a letter to the Cipayung civil engineering department asking it to cancel the July 3 order to dismantle the second floor of the home, since the demand was in breach of local regulations. Authorities' order to cease area religious activity for an indefinite period followed on July 13.

Pasaribu said he also hoped to file a report with the East Jakarta police department regarding an incident on May 21, in which Ambessa's neighbors forced him to sign a document agreeing to cease religious activity.

Ambessa, however, is still weighing the likely consequences of legal action for his family and congregation.

The pastor's home in Pondok Rangon village has functioned as a legally recognized house church for the past 12 years.

On June 6, authorities sent a letter ordering him to cease work on the second-floor extension. Construction, however, had already been completed on May 17.

When church services continued, approximately 20 young men led by a local resident approached the Cipayung district offices on June 25, demanding that Ambessa's house be demolished.

On May 21, a similar neighborhood group had threatened Ambessa and forced him to sign a document stating that he would cease holding church services in his home. Ambessa told Compass that he had signed the document under duress, fearing attacks on his wife and daughters.

Having established his small congregation in 1996 with the requisite permission from neighbors and civic authorities, Ambessa said he was determined to protect the right of his church members to worship freely.

A Positive Influence

The pastor began his ministry in the village in February 1995, working with young men in the village who were drinking at night and disturbing local residents.

By April 1996, the young men had given up drinking and were attending church services. The neighborhood Public Order official, a volunteer with a wide range of responsibilities from overseeing garbage collection to resolving community disputes, made a point of thanking Ambessa for his positive influence in the community.

In May 1996, local Public Order officials and the head of Cipayung district gave Ambessa permission to hold services in his rented home. Ambessa also sought and received permission from 70 neighbors to establish a house of worship, meeting the requirements of a 1969 Joint Ministerial Decree (SKB) regulating places of worship.

After purchasing the house in 2002, Ambessa decided to extend the building to cater to his growing congregation.

Officials in Cipayung, however, had created a new regulation requiring churches to apply for a special religious building permit (Ijin Mendirikan Bangunan or IMB), considerably more expensive than an ordinary building permit. Realizing the prohibitive cost and the difficulty of obtaining such a permit, and on the grounds that the building was a residential home, Ambessa decided to proceed with the extension without applying for a religious IMB.

As one Compass source noted, enforcement of building regulations is notoriously inconsistent in Indonesia. Many private homes are built or extended without building permits, and mosques are often built or extended without a religious IMB -- but the law is applied more stringently to churches.

Confusion Over New Regulation

Neighbors objected to the extension based on a revision of the 1969 SKB that came into effect on March 21, 2006, officially known as Perber 60/90. Issued by the Minister of Home Affairs and the Minister of Religious Affairs, the decree spelled out conditions for the construction of new churches as opposed to existing churches.

Under the revised decree, new churches must be clearly identified as such, with a cross on the roof and a design "appropriate to a place of worship." At least 60 immediate neighbors must approve the construction project, along with Public Order officials, the head of the village and district, and the "local community harmony forum" (Forum Kerukunan Umat Beragama), consisting of a panel of residents from different faiths.

In addition, the church must have at least 90 adult members.

The decree applied only to new church construction projects and therefore not to Ambessa's home-based congregation, in existence since 1996. Neighbors, however, were confused about the new regulation and demanded that it be applied to Ambessa's church.

On July 13, a contingent of local officials -- including a senior police officer, the head of Pondok Rangon village and the head of Cipayung district -- arrived at Ambessa's home and asked him to cease all religious activity for an indefinite period to alleviate rising tensions.

Ambessa complied on July 15, calling a halt to church services. He then obtained a lawyer, Pasaribu, to defend both his home and his congregation's freedom to worship as outlined in Article 29(b) of Indonesia's constitution, which says, "The state guarantees the freedom of every citizen to hold his/her own religion and to worship according to his/her religion or faith."

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Title: Croatia Bans Sunday Shopping
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 02:51:55 PM
Croatia Bans Sunday Shopping
Dan Wooding


July 28, 2008

ZAGREB (ANS) - The parliament of the predominantly Catholic country of Croatia is urging its citizens to reclaim Sunday as a day for celebrating the Eucharist, for family, and for rest.

This was revealed in a story by Thaddeus M. Baklinski and posted on http://www.lifesitenews.com/

Writing on July 16, Baklinski said, "The Croatian parliament passed a law yesterday requiring most businesses to close on Sundays. The law does, however, allow Sunday shopping during the summer tourist season and Christmas holidays.

"The new law also allows stores in hospitals as well as those in gas, bus and train stations to open on Sundays year-round. Bakeries, newsstands and flower shops are also exempt from the ban."

He went on to say, "Most post-communist countries, including Croatia, have experienced problems transitioning from the oppression of Marxist ideology, which proclaimed there is no God and therefore no need for any day for religious observance or rest, to a free market economy with a fascination with and craving for all things Western.

"Croatia, however, is now in a more stable political and economic situation where its people can reaffirm their centuries-old traditions of family and faith and experience a Renaissance of their culture. The banning of Sunday shopping is a significant step in that direction.

"The benefits of not making Sunday just an extension of Saturday have been well documented."

For instance, he added, a report entitled "The Church vs. the Mall: What Happens When Religion Faces Increased Secular Competition?" that was published by the National Bureau of Economic Research in 2006, indicated that approval of Sunday shopping triggered an increase in drug and alcohol use among otherwise faithful churchgoers. (http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2006/sep/06091506.html)

Baklinski said that Catholic Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix, Arizona, observed in 2005 that "the world has suffered with the loss of the religious observance of Sunday as a day of rest," and reflected that the day which used to be reserved for religious and family togetherness, has turned into "an extension of Saturday," filled with errands invariably including shopping.

Bishop Olmsted said, "Keep the Lord's day holy...refrain from all shopping and enjoy Sunday as a day of rest, a day of leisure, a day for family, a day for celebrating the Eucharist." (Phoenix Bishop says "No Sunday Shopping" - A Wedge Issue in the Culture Wars: http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2005/jul/05071803.html)

He concluded by saying that Dr. Michael Schluter, Director of Keep Sunday Special, a UK lobby group dedicated to promoting a ban on Sunday shopping in Britain, said, "People are crying out for a break and a release from the pressure of working each day of the week, they want family time back, they want their Sunday back and are simply not interested in any more shopping.

"We've had thirteen years of Sunday trading and yet still two thirds of people say Sunday should be a different day to the rest of the week, and almost a third (31%) of people say that they never shop in large shops or supermarkets at all on Sundays. Sunday has been stolen from people and they want to get it back - above all they want a break."

"Think too about the potential environmental benefits through saving energy and fewer journeys if large shops were shut," Dr. Schluter said.
__________________________________


Title: Lambeth Bishops March against Poverty
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 02:53:29 PM
Lambeth Bishops March against Poverty
Michael Ireland


July 30, 2008

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM (ANS) -- More than 600 bishops and their spouses took time out from the Lambeth Conference, the conference of Anglican bishops taking place at the University of Kent near Canterbury, England, joining in a walk of witness against poverty in London on Thursday, July 24.

The walk took the bishops past the Houses of Parliament and 10 Downing Street, the British Prime Minister's London residence, before concluding at the Archbishop of Canterbury's official residence, Lambeth Palace, where they were joined by the British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Prime Minister praised the march as "the greatest public demonstration of faith" to ever take place in the UK and reaffirmed his desire to work with people of faith in eradicating poverty.

"You have sent a simple and a very clear message with rising force, that poverty can be eradicated, that poverty must be eradicated and if we can all work together for change poverty will be eradicated," he said.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, meanwhile paid tribute the Micah Challenge movement of Christians around the world that are putting pressure on their governments to do everything they can to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), agreed upon by world leaders in 2000 with the aim of halving extreme global poverty by 2015.

He said, "What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, love mercy, to walk humbly with your God," quoting the verse at the heart of the Micah Challenge movement, Micah 6.8. "That is the challenge we seek to confront today."

The International Director of the World Evangelical Alliance, Dr Geoff Tunnicliffe was among those joined the bishops on their walk of witness. He later joined the Archbishop and other faith leaders in a lunch reception with Mr Brown, before meeting the Queen at a reception at Buckingham Palace.

In a conversation with Mr Brown, Dr Tunnicliffe thanked him for his commitment to eradicating poverty through deepening government's partnership with the Christian community. He further urged the Prime Minister to use his influence on other world leaders to make the same commitment to greater collaboration.

The Walk of Witness was a joint initiative of Lambeth Palace and Micah Challenge. Micah Challenge is a joint project of World Evangelical Alliance and Micah Network.

World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) is made up of 128 national evangelical alliances located in 7 regions and 104 associate member organizations. The vision of WEA is to extend the Kingdom of God by making disciples of all nations and by Christ-centered transformation within society. WEA exists to foster Christian unity, to provide an identity, voice and platform for the 420 million evangelical Christians worldwide.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 28, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 02:56:06 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 28, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Athletes to Get Christian-Atheist Book at Beijing Olympics
    * Oldest New Testament Goes Virtual
    * Four TV Ministries Won't Comply with Probe
    * Greg Laurie's Son Killed in Car Crash

 

Athletes to Get Christian-Atheist Book at Beijing Olympics

The Christian Post reports that publishers are providing 30,000 New Testaments and 10,000 complete Bibles for athletes at the Olympics, but that's not all. American evangelist Luis Palau has been given permission to distribute copies of his book, A Friendly Dialogue Between an Atheist and a Christian, to athletes in Beijing. The book records a conversation between atheist Chinese diplomat Zhao Qizheng, a high-ranking Chinese government official, and Palau. The book offers a summary of Christian beliefs and philosophy of religion from the perspective of Chinese culture. Government approval for this book contrasts reports of crackdown on Christians, pastors and house churches.

Oldest New Testament Goes Virtual

The UK-based Times Online reports that the oldest known complete copy of the New Testament will be available in full text online by next July. The Book of Psalms and the Gospel of Mark were made available online last week. The Codex Sinaiticus Bible, written in 4th-century Greek, is currently divided between four countries - Britain, Russia, Egypt and Germany - who all claim a right to the document. In the past, anyone wishing to examine the document first hand would have had to approach the British Library "on bended knee", said Christopher Tuckett, a professor of New Testament studies at Oxford University. "To have it available just at the click of a button is fantastic. You could do in two seconds what would take hours and hours of flicking through the leaves," he said.

Greg Laurie's Son Killed in Car Crash


ASSIST News Service reports that Christopher David Laurie, the 33-year-old first-born son of well-know evangelist Greg Laurie, died in an auto accident in Riverside County, California, on Thursday. The accident occurred at around 9:00 AM on the Riverside Freeway, near Serfas Club Drive in Corona after his vehicle car slammed into the back of a Caltrans truck in the carpool lane on the eastbound Riverside (91) Freeway in Corona, California. No one else was injured. Laurie of Huntington Beach, served as the art director at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, sponsor of the Harvest Crusade, for the last three years .Greg Laurie is senior pastor of the Riverside megachurch and is well-known for his dynamic preaching. His sermons are telecast across America and around the world.

Four TV Ministries Won't Comply with Probe

Four television ministries still have refused to comply fully with a U.S. Senate committee's probe into their financial records nearly nine months after first being asked, according to the Baptist Press. The ministries of Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long and Randy and Paula White have provided only partial information or none at all, said Sen. Charles Grassley, R.-Iowa, who initiated the investigation by requesting information from six televangelists in early November. The ministries of Benny Hinn and Joyce Meyer, however, gave "extensive answers to all questions," Grassley said. Grassley's questions of the televangelists were based on accounts of abuses from watchdog organizations and whistleblowers, as well as investigative news reports, he has said. "Religious conservatives, like ourselves, believe this to be an unfortunate development, but if donors do not insist on even greater levels of ministry cooperation with donor advocate , unneeded government regulation is sure to follow," Rusty Leonard of MinistryWatch.com said in a written statement.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 29, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 02:58:09 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 29, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Man Opens Fire in Church, Kills 2
    * Indonesia: Militants Reportedly Killed Christian, Planned More
    * Baylor University Fires School President
    * Steven Curtis Chapman Returns to Stage

 

Man Opens Fire in Church, Kills 2

The children's musical at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church was cut short Sunday morning when a gunman burst into the church and started firing, killing two people and injuring seven. Congregants subdued the gunman before any children were harmed. Police have identified the suspect as Jim D. Adkisson, 58. Adkisson reportedly shouted "hateful words," church member Barbara Kempber told the Associated Press, before opening fire with his shotgun. Investigators say that Adkisson is not believed to have been a member of the Knoxville church, according to CNN. They are still searching for a motive, Knoxville Police Chief Sterling Owen told CNN.

Indonesia: Militants Reportedly Killed Christian, Planned More

The Christian Post reports that Indonesian terror suspects accused of executing a teacher and planning the assassination of an American language teacher have been arrested, according to top anti-terrorism officials. The militants allegedly killed Dago Simamora, 59 in front of his children last year, their lawyer confirmed. The militants have also confessed to planning an attack on the Supreme Court as retaliation for the 2002 nightclub bombings on Bali island, and have connections with al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Indonesia has been rattled by suicide bombers and a resilient militant Islamic network since 2001. Police have arrested more than 400 suspects in recent years.

Baylor University Fires School President

Baylor University, the world's largest Baptist University, finds itself in need of a president for the second time in three years, according to the Christian Post. The school's board of regents fired John M. Lilly on Thursday, citing only a lack of "confidence in John's ability to unite various Baylor constituencies." In a statement Thursday, Lilley said he joined Baylor in 2005 to help the school heal after President Robert Sloan stepped down, who had been blamed for rising tuition costs and divisions among faculty, but quickly saw the regents as a primarily cause of division. The board acknowledged Lilley's successes, but stood by its decision. 

Steven Curtis Chapman Returns to Stage

The Chicago Daily Herald reports that singer Steven Curtis Chapman returned to tour for the first time since his daughter was killed in May, sharing his story of faith with crowds. Chicago is only his sixth concert since 5-year-old Maria was killed when her brother accidentally struck her with the family SUV. "Thank you so much for your prayers and your support. It's the reason my family is more than surviving, but sure how faithful and true our Redeemer is," Chapman told the crowd. Before singing "Blessed Be Your Name," he added, "I have to say this, as I sang this song, though it wasn't a song, it was a cry, a scream, a prayer," Chapman said. Ultimately, he said, that helped remind him of "an amazing comfort and peace that surpasses all understanding."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 30, 2008
Post by: nChrist on July 30, 2008, 03:00:22 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 30, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Man Admits Church Shooting, Says Liberals Should Die
    * Anti-Christian Violence Up in Pre-Election India
    * Moscow, Kiev Both Claim Victory in Church Dispute
    * Hurricane Relief Afoot in Rio Grande Valley

 

Man Admits Church Shooting, Says Liberals Should Die

CNN reports that the man accused of storming a Unitarian church in Knoxville told police that the church's liberal teachings incited the rampage which killed two and injured seven. J. David Adkisson reportedly blamed liberals and Democrats for the country's decline, and, "Because he could not get to the leaders of the liberal movement ... he would then target those that had voted them into office," according to the affidavit. A letter found in his vehicle also pointed to frustration at his unemployment as a motive. Linda Kraeger, 61, and Greg McKendry, 60, were killed in the shooting Sunday, police said. The Associated Press reports that three others who were shot are in serious condition and a fourth is stable.

Anti-Christian Violence Up in Pre-Election India

Compass Direct News reports that as elections approach in Madhya Pradesh state, Christian leaders say their community is increasingly targeted as part of an effort by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to consolidate Hindu nationalist (Hindutva) votes. "This year alone, since January we have recorded 35 major incidents of atrocities against the Christian community," Father Anand Muttungal, spokesman for the Catholic Bishops' Conference of Madhya Pradesh, told Compass. With elections scheduled for December, the Hindu extremist BJP already has begun saber-rattling against the Christian community. Indira Iyengar, a former member of the Madhya Pradesh State Minority Commission, noted that at election time the BJP tends to divide voters along religious lines and physically attack minorities. "[They] will do so even more and would like to show Hindus that they are the only saviors of Hinduism," she said, "and that if they do not protect the Hindus, they will all become Christians or Muslims."

Moscow, Kiev Both Claim Victory in Ukraine Church Dispute

International Herald Tribune reports that leaders in Moscow and Kiev are both claiming the spiritual leader of the Orthodox church is on their side after a weekend meeting with him. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko is working to create an independent Ukrainian Orthodox church in accord with his campaign to shake Ukraine's history of Russian influence. "I am glad that the Patriarch is backing the aspiration of the Ukrainian people to have its own national local church," Yushchenko said in a statement. "Such aspirations are in line to all the principles of a national, state and of course church life." Meanwhile, Mikhail Prokopenko, a spokesman for the Moscow-based Russian church, disputed Yushchenko's claim, saying that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople affirmed Moscow's leadership over the Ukrainian church, and that Bartholomew will not recognize a schism. Bartholomew's office declined immediate comment.

Hurricane Relief Afoot in Rio Grande Valley

Baptist Press reports that disaster relief volunteers from the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention are providing meals and assisting in cleanup in the Rio Grande Valley after Hurricane Dolly hit the far south Texas coast July 23. "Hurricane Dolly brought torrential rains and devastating winds to the area," Jim Richardson, SBTC disaster relief director, wrote in an e-mail. "Many of the families in Matamoros have been affected." Volunteers are cooking 10,000 meals a day for the Salvation Army canteens in McAllen, Richardson said. Churches from the Gulf Coast westward toward McAllen assessed damage from the storm to their buildings and communities the day after the storm. The 200,000 people without electricity July 24 had dropped to about 125,000 by the weekend, according to news reports. According to Moreno, the area's greatest needs are chainsaws and blue tarps to cover damaged buildings.

____________________________


Title: Watching the Tide of the Silent Tsunami
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:09:21 PM
Watching the Tide of the Silent Tsunami
Katherine Peters

July 31, 2008

In America, the economic downturn and spiked gas prices have forced some people to give up a vacation. Rising food costs have slimmed down family wallets and the line at Starbucks is shorter. The consequences so far are distasteful, but not disastrous on a wide scale.

In Haiti, the economics have more dire consequences. As food costs skyrocket, the increased appearance of "clay cookies" -- clay mixed with oil, butter and salt to make it more pleasant to eat -- highlights the hunger among the very poor.

"It's not another dollar on top of every gallon they use in their cars," said Mark Bush, chief operating officer of CURE International, a nonprofit dedicated to helping physically deformed children in developing countries. "It comes down to the fact of, 'Can I actually feed everybody in my family today?'"

Relief organizations have seen he price of staples such as rice and maize jump to two or even three times their cost last year, slamming developing countries like an unending wave -- like a tsunami.

Measuring the Wave


"This is not a disaster such as an earthquake or a typhoon or a hurricane, where it comes, it's devastating... then it's gone and people can start moving in on the relief perspective pretty quickly," said Mark Hanlon of Compassion International, which focuses on child development in impoverished countries. "This is a different kind of disaster. It's ongoing. It's daily... That's why they call it the 'silent tsunami.'"

Americans spend about 10 percent to 15 percent of their income on food, according to Hanlon, making food spikes comparatively easy to absorb. In many countries where Compassion operates, the cost of food already consumes 50 percent to 70 percent of a family's income. "Sometimes now, with those costs going up, it's even greater than 70 percent," Hanlon said.

According to the World Food Program, an estimated 820 million people experience hunger on a daily basis. About one-sixth of the world's population lives on less than a dollar a day. And decreased purchase power could push an additional 100 million people into deeper poverty, according to World Bank.

And the numbers continue to grow. The World Food Programme indicated July 22 that multiple African countries -- including Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda -- face imminent food shortages that will affect 15 million people. North Korea faces its greatest food crisis in a decade.

All those figures and alerts mean huge challenges ahead for relief organizations such as Compassion and CURE -- challenges to not only do more, but to do more with less.

Robert Zachritz of World Vision, a Christian relief and child development organization, notes that while child sponsorship and donations are still increasing for World Vision, the cost of food outstrips growth in giving in many countries.

"
  • n the books, it might say revenue is going up, but because the expenses to buy x amount of things have gone up, there's a lost potential," Zachritz said.

Overall, even Christians are reducing their charitable giving. A study of 1,000 Christian adults nationwide by Dunham and Company showed that 46 percent of the Christian adults indicated that they have reduced their giving to charity.

Taking the Brunt of the Crisis

"I think it's fair to say that it is a crisis in the Third World, where so little of the day to day income is available to do other things, so that when suddenly being fed suddenly costs three times as much," Bush said.

In the Western Hemisphere, the silent tsunami wreaks the most devastation in Haiti and Nicaragua. In Haiti, more than half the country lives on less than a dollar a day and spend more than half their income on food. This makes the price of rice -- which has doubled since December -- especially hard for families to swallow.

In other countries such as Malawi in Africa, a jump in the cost of maize affected CURE's employees along with the rest of the country. And while CURE focuses on helping children through medical procedures, mealtimes while children are at the hospital provide an avenue to sharing the Gospel. The increased cost of meals as well as fuel has forced many CURE hospitals to cut back on the number of yearly field clinics they make into areas beyond the reach of the hospitals.

Although the extent of the crisis varies from country to country, one group of people always takes the hardest hit.

 "The people hurt the most is young children," Zachritz said. "If a child gets stunted, that stunting is with them for the rest of their lives."

The ripple effect continues from the child outward into the community, as families feel the pain of not being able to provide for their youngest members. On the flip side, sponsored children try to provide for themselves and their families by sharing food kits and sneaking food into their pockets to take home from sponsored group meals, Hanlon said.

"We are expanding program to family from food standpoint until some of this normalizes," Hanlon said. "The question is, what is normal."

Building the Life Raft

Hanlon compared the global food crisis to the 2004 Christmas tsunami, which killed more than 225,000 people and left many more homeless and injured. Compassion raised less than $4 million specifically for the disaster and then asked donors to stop giving because the organization had sufficient resources.

Now, Compassion is looking to raise $10 to $15 million in the next six to nine months specifically to help relieve the global food crisis. "It's biggest single campaign or movement towards a disaster or crisis that we've ever done," Hanlon said.

In Malawi, one CURE donor offered to cover any rise in the cost of maize and rice for the next six months for employees, so employees don't feel sharp increases. Ninety-eight percent of CURE's employees are native to the country in which they work.

"We want to make sure our employees continue to have the ability to feed their families, so when they come into work they can focus on the work-issues... That's one less thing that our employees have to worry about," Bush said.

Governments, too, are stepping in with funds. World Vision is partnering with MercyCorp to distribute 100,000 metric tons of food to more than half a million people in North Korea over the next year, all funded by the United States.

In addition to the Korea aid, Congress passed a supplemental aid bill bumping up emergency food program funding from $1.1 billion to $1.9 billion, according to Zachritz. World Vision will help distribute that aid and also look for ways to institute long-term programs like sustainable agriculture.

But Zachritz emphasizes that it isn't just government or big donors that will help turn the tide.

Believing in Widows' Mites

"I think it's an opportunity, for God to be glorified by seeing his people, the church, respond" as long term solutions are sought after, World Vision's Zachritz said. "It's part of our faith. It's who we are, as followers of Jesus, to care for those in need."

Donations from other countries continue to be strong, which helps equalize donations lost in the U.S., but the wave of the silent tsunami is large enough to suck up whatever is offered.

Hanlon encouraged people to look at the example of the widow's mite in Luke 21.

"Compassion is more built on the widow's mite than it is on the major donor donation. Most of our sponsors really only have one child, and that's about all they can handle," he said. "It just makes you stop and say, 'What's the absolute most important we can do with this money in our program?'"

The organization is looking to boost their sponsorship goals by 15 percent this fiscal year, hoping to bring in 140,000 new sponsors for children.

"We're just going to have to deeply rely on the Lord for that," Hanlon continued.

CURE International has a unique take to raising funds -- they created a tell-a-friend widget that donates $5 to CURE every time someone gives their email address.

"There are some donors out there who realize the situation exists not only in countries where we're providing care, but here in the U.S. where the economic downturn is occurring," Bush said. "It's something unique that allows us to get the message out."

As relief organizations, the media, major donors, and even government get involved, however, Hanlon encourages people not to forget the power of prayer and God's people at work.

"We don't really feel like any of those other efforts are going to be successful without the church getting involved," he said. "Compassion really believes that once the church gets involves and kind of understands and gets their teeth into a particular issues, there's not really any global issue that can't be solved."

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Title: Israel's Messianic Jews: Some Call it a 'Miracle'
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:11:22 PM
Israel's Messianic Jews: Some Call it a 'Miracle'
Dan Wooding


August 1, 2008

JERUSALEM, ISRAEL -- "In Israel, a resurgence in the number of Jews who believe in Jesus is getting a lot of attention. Many leaders say it's the strongest growth since the time of Jesus and that the Messianic movement could be on the brink of a great revival."

So said Wendy Griffith, CBN News Senior Reporter, in a story for The 700 Club.

"This is the first time where we've seen Israeli society in general being so open to consider who Yeshua is," Messianic leader Asher Intrater told her. "This is a real miracle, and there's beginning to be grace and favor with us in the land."

Griffith said, "Although Jesus and the early disciples were Jewish, for nearly 2,000 years the gospel has been viewed as a religion mainly for Gentiles. Even the name Jesus or Yeshua has been a forbidden word among many Jews. But in the last few years, Messianic leaders in Israel say something important is happening."

"I believe with all my heart, after we have come back to the land, we are seeing the Lord, the Holy Spirit, is removing the veil from the eyes of the Jews and more and more Jews are realizing," Tel Aviv pastor Avi Mizrachi said.

Griffith went on to say, "Although nobody knows for sure how many Messianic Jews live in Israel, it's believed there are about 120 congregations now and 10,000-15,000 Jewish believers in Jesus.

"That may not sound like many given Israel's nearly six million Jews, but it's a far cry from 10 years ago when there were only about 3,500 Jewish believers and 80 congregations.

"A good example is Shemen Sasson in Jerusalem, where attendance has nearly tripled over the past four years. Today, close to 300 people attend the meetings, most of them Jewish or people married to Jews. And salvations are increasing."

She then introduced the Ronens. Daniel, Ayelet and their five children are Israeli believers. Ayelet is an Israeli Jew and Daniel is a Finnish Gentile. But his family has been here since before Israel became a nation. They believe Jesus is the Jewish Messiah.

"When Jesus came, when Yeshua came, he came to talk to our people," Ayelet Ronen said. "He walked on our land, He spoke our language, He spoke in our synagogues. Really, He came for us!

Griffith went onto say, "Yad-Hashmona is a beautiful little village about 10 miles outside Jerusalem, and the only one home to just Messianic Jewish believers like the Ronens.

"For this family, being Israeli and believing in Jesus is a natural fit. They keep the Jewish feasts, circumcise their sons, keep the Sabbath and serve in the army. And even though they live in a Messianic village, they don't feel secluded from the rest of Israeli society."

Daniel Ronen explained, "Our kids go with everybody else to school... I go to work outside...Our principle is to go out and be part of society."

Their children sometimes face challenges but have used those occasions to witness.

"My friends started to know I'm a believer and they ask me if I'm a believer. I tell them I'm a believer in Yeshua and it's really good to believe in Him and that maybe you can one day believe in him, too," third grader Adan said.

Griffith said that the Ronens are sometimes accused of being missionaries, a very bad word in Israel. But they insist they are not.

"My point is to share my faith with anyone who wants to hear me and I will gladly share the Good News of my faith," Ayelet said. "I never speak of 'you should do,' and 'you should change.'"

In addition to Israeli-born believers, many are from other countries. American Jews Eddie and Jackie Santoro became believers during the 1970s Jesus Movement.
They made aliyah to Israel 11 years ago, learned Hebrew, and now lead a growing congregation in Jerusalem.

"Our current congregation, we started almost two years ago with about 20 people. Today we have over 100," Eddie Santoro explained. "We see salvations here and there, but we feel like there's something yet to come. It's definitely growing."
But being a Jewish believer in Israel isn't easy.

"I think probably the greatest challenge is that you always feel that the rest of society isn't accepting you. And so when you meet somebody and you want to talk to them and you want to tell them who you are, there's always that challenge of, 'should I say something," Jackie Santoro said.

Griffith said that for the first time, the secular media are saying something, even mentioning Messianic Jews in a more favorable light. A recent wave of persecution, including the bombing of a young Jewish believer, have put Messianic Jews on the front page.

"At least we see that believers are being asked to explain who they are, what they believe in, why they are here...how they can be Israeli and believe in Jesus and be given an opportunity to tell their story and share their testimony," Knut Hoyland of the Caspari Center said.

What does this movement mean for the Body of Christ?

"It really is ultimately a battle for the return of the Lord - because Jesus will not return until the Jewish people say Baruch h'abba B'shem Adonai - Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord," said worship leader Karen Davis.

"One of our other banner statements is from Romans 11, that all Israel will be saved. So we are focused, not just on growth in the body here and revival - but as I said, ultimately, bringing Yeshua back and His Kingdom being established on the Earth," Asher said.

Ayelet said, "If it wasn't for Yeshua, we would be lost - just like the lost sheep of Israel we would be. It's because of Him there is that completion in our life and hope for the future.

"If it wasn't for Yeshua, we would be lost," Ayelet said.
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Title: Indonesia: Demonstrations Turn Violent at Theological School
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:13:09 PM
Indonesia: Demonstrations Turn Violent at Theological School
Michael Ireland


August 4, 2008

JAKARTA, INDONESIA -- For a second consecutive night some 580 students from the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology (SETIA) in East Jakarta slept in the lobby of Indonesia's parliament Thursday following demonstrations against the school that left at least 17 students injured.

Hundreds of protestors shouting "Allahu-Akbar ["God is greater]", urged on by announcements from a mosque loudspeaker to "drive out the unwanted neighbor."

The crowd brandished machetes, carried sharpened bamboo and acid and continued to attack 1,400 students and school staff members even as they were evacuated over the weekend (July 26-27), according to Compass Direct News.

Besides the students in the parliamentary building, hundreds of others were evacuated to area denominational and medical facilities, the news agency said.

Compass Direct said the violence took place in spite of the efforts of 400 police officers summoned after tensions erupted on Friday (July 25).

Students and school staff taking refuge in the parliament building lobby asked government officials to return them to the college and guarantee their safety there. They talked with members of parliament, particularly from the Prosperous Peace Party (PDS), a Christian party led by Karol Daniel Kadang, Compass Direct reported.

The agency said the parliamentary members promised the students, staff members and their lawyers that they would contact the head of the National Police Department to file a complaint about officers who failed to protect them during the July 25-27 violence that caused 85 million rupiahs (US$9,325) in damages.

According to Compass Direct, lawyers for the students and staff members also demanded capture of those responsible for the violence, as well as the firing of the mayor of East Jakarta, known as Murdani, for blaming the Christian students whom he referred to as a minority group that "should behave."

The news agency reported that a seemingly harmless incident touched off the protests.

Local sources said that at 10:30 p.m. on Friday (July 25), two SETIA students, Julius Koli and Jonny Gontoh, returned to their dormitory to find a large rat, and one of them threw his sandal at it. The sandal fell onto a neighbor's property, and when the two went there to retrieve the sandal, area residents shouted "Thieves!"

By midnight mobs had formed and were attacking two male dormitories. At 2:30 a.m., mobs had reached the third floor of one of the dormitories and were trying to burn it down. Local sources said that when they set the building on fire, gasoline spilled onto the leg of one of the attackers, and they ran away.

Another mob attacked the main building of SETIA with stones. Male students threw the stones back at them, and by 5:30 a.m. Saturday morning (July 26) local policemen arrived.

That night, area residents and Muslim extremist groups made their way past police checkpoints and some of them armed with metal clubs and machetes broke into a women's dormitory, where male students had been transferred after female students were relocated. While the attackers ransacked the dormitory, those outside threw tear gas and home-made "Molotov cocktail" bombs at the structure.

Evacuations of students began that night.

Compass Direct said that on Sunday evening (July 27), as police were further evacuating students and staff members, the attackers slashed some male students with swords. At least 17 students received treatment for injuries at the Christian University Indonesia Hospital Cawang, East Jakarta. Among them were Gabriel Dessa, 21, and 22-year-old Yopiter M. Bessa, who both suffered stomach and hand wounds.

Local sources said police officers did not arrest the assailants even though the assaults took place in front of them.

Motives for Attack

Compass Direct explained that key among motives for the attack, according to a member of the village assembly, was that area Muslims felt "disturbed" by the presence of the Christian college. They want it to be moved to another area.

SETIA officials explained to parliamentarians that the school, founded 21 years ago, has full legal permission and registration to operate. While now sitting in the middle of a populated area, when originally established the college was surrounded only by cornfields and banana plantations.

School public relations official Bayu Kusuma told the parliamentarians that the college has permission from the Religious Department, a special construction permit for a school/seminary building and registration with the official gazette (Berita Negara), along with documentation from the Republic of Indonesia.

Last year, the Muslim extremist Islamic Defenders' Front demonstrated in front of the college, accusing it of having misapplied its permit, Compass said.

Compass Direct also reported that since 2007, protestors have held six demonstrations. On March 7, 2007, more than 200 Muslims set fire to construction workers' quarters in an effort to keep SETIA from adding a fifth dormitory.

Three days later, some 300 people gathered to protest the construction, demanding that the school close. They claimed it was disturbing area residents when students sang during their classes and that students were evangelizing people in the area.

Compass says that Government officials have brokered talks between the conflicting parties, without success.
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Title: Archbishop of Canterbury Says Gay Ban Needed to Preserve Unity
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:14:45 PM
Archbishop of Canterbury Says Gay Ban Needed to Preserve Unity
Daniel Burke


August 5, 2008

CANTERBURY, England -- The spiritual leader of the global Anglican Communion said the communion will be in "grave peril" if its North American churches ignore temporary bans on gay bishops and same-sex unions.

"If the North American churches don't accept moratoria" on gay bishops and blessings, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said on Sunday (Aug. 3), "as a communion we are going to continue to be in grave peril."

The archbishop also said conservative archbishops from the so-called Global South must stop transgressing traditional geographic boundaries and seeking to adopt like-minded parishes in the U.S. and Canada.

Williams' comments came at a press conference at the conclusion of the Lambeth Conference, a once-a-decade gathering that brought together more than 650 bishops representing the world's third-largest Christian body.

Nearly 200 bishops, mostly from Africa, boycotted the conference because they refused to meet alongside bishops from the U.S. or Canada who allow same-sex blessings or approved of the election of an openly gay man, V. Gene Robinson, as bishop of New Hampshire in 2003.

Though there was no recorded vote, a majority of bishops at Lambeth agreed with Williams and said the moratoria, although "difficult to uphold," are necessary to keep the Anglican Communion from breaking apart.

Yet in a sign of problems ahead, at least two California bishops had already earlier said they will continue to bless same-sex relationships in their dioceses.

The bishops' closing statement, which is not binding, came in a 40-page "Reflections from the Lambeth Conference."

The bishops here said same-sex blessings and Robinson's consecration have led to "many negative results." Mission partners have been lost, interfaith partnerships damaged, and the church is ridiculed in some quarters as "the gay church," the bishops said.

Bishops also gave strong approval for a proposed new covenant that would outline Anglican beliefs -- and penalties for churches that flaunt them -- as well as a "pastoral forum" to deal quickly with crises in the communion.

Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said: "We have not resolved the differences among us, but have seen the need to maintain relationships, even in the face of significant disagreement and discomfort."

Jefferts Schori generally favors gay rights in her church, and voted to approve Robinson's consecration. Robinson was not invited to the conference but has been in England advocating for gay rights.

Throughout the three-week conference, bishops have studied the Bible and met in groups modeled on the African concept of villagers convening to hash out serious disputes.

The "reflections" document attempts to capture those conversations, but was also debated by the full body of bishops beneath a big blue circus tent here at the University of Kent.

No binding resolutions were produced, however, after Williams and conference designers determined they would be too polarizing.

But a majority of bishops here clearly want the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Church of Canada to not allow gay bishops and same-sex unions. The U.S. church says it effectively banned gay bishops two years ago, and has never authorized public liturgical rites for same-sex unions.

Some blessings of same-sex unions still occur in the U.S., however.

"I'm not very happy about that," Williams said Sunday.

As head of the Church of England, the archbishop of Canterbury is spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, but lacks the power to bring autonomous national churches into line.

Still, liberals in the Episcopal Church acknowledged that Sunday was a setback.

"We don't see this as a permanent marginalization," said Bishop Dean Wolfe of Kansas. "This is a dance that will go on for some time."

The Rev. Susan Russell, a California gay rights activist here for the conference said, "This means I'm going to have to work harder to get the Episcopal Church to do the right thing."

Bishop Hector Zalava of Brazil said Sunday that "the communion will split," if Episcopalians allow gay bishops and blessings. "If the Episcopal Church continues that way I don't have any hope for the future," he said.

Some bishops expressed frustration with the conference's design, comparing it to "Bible school for bishops," with endless talk but little action.

"I don't think we've done anything to resolve the crisis," said Bishop Keith Ackerman, a conservative from Quincy, Ill.

Williams said the bishops have taken positive steps.

"We may not have put an end to all our problems," he said, "but the pieces are on the board."
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Title: Saudi Arabia to Deport 15 Christians
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:16:13 PM
Saudi Arabia to Deport 15 Christians
Michael Ireland


August 6, 2008

Deportation Comes Two Weeks after King Abdullah Calls for Reconciliation Between Muslims and Christians at Saudi-Hosted Interfaith Dialogue

SAUDI ARABIA -- Saudi Arabia was set to deport 15 Christians on Tuesday, August 5, for holding private worship meetings in a house in the city of Taif.

International Christian Concern (ICC) www.persecution.org  says that on Friday, April 25, twelve Saudi Arabian police raided a house where 16 Christians were holding a prayer meeting.

In an e-mail report obtained by ANS, ICC says: "The first officer to enter the house after breaking down the main gate pointed a pistol at the Christians and ordered them to hand over their resident permits and mobile phones. The other 11 police followed quickly and started searching the entire house. They confiscated an electronic drum set, an offering box with 500 Saudi Riyal in it ($130), 20 bibles, and a few Christian books."

ICC says the police initially accused the Christians of preaching the Bible and singing. They later changed the charge to holding a "dance party" and collecting money to support terrorism.

The report goes on to say that during the raid, the police mocked, questioned and harassed the Christians for four hours.

"Then they took them to a police station where the head of the station interrogated them. The head of the police then wrote down their 'statements' in Arabic and forced the Christians, who are immigrants and not able to read or write Arabic, to sign the statements."

After the interrogations, the Christians were incarcerated and held incommunicado. After three days, the Christians were finally released on April 27, 2008 at 8 PM, ICC said.

The ICC report stated: "Upon release, one of the Christians permanently departed the country. The others, thinking that their ordeal was over, went back to their daily lives and work but soon received letters demanding that they leave the country immediately."

ICC says the arrested Christians are hard working people who came to Saudi Arabia to improve their lives and to contribute to the economic growth of the country. The Saudi officials' decision to deport them for practicing their faith is despicable.

ICC adds: "The decision to deport them runs contrary to recent attempts to portray the kingdom as a beacon of reconciliation among Christians, Muslims, Jews and others. Three weeks ago, Saudi Arabia hosted an interfaith conference in Madrid, Spain. During the conference that took place from July 16-19, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called for reconciliation among various religions."

Jeff King, ICC's President, said, "Deporting Christians for worshipping in their private homes shows that King Abdullah's speech is mere rhetoric and his country is deceiving the international community about their desire for change and reconciliation."

Please pray for the Christians that face deportation so that Saudi officials will change their decision and allow them to continue working in the country. Please call the Saudi Arabian embassy in your country and ask the officials at the embassies to stop deporting the Christians.

Saudi Arabian Embassies:

Country Phone Fax  Email
USA: (202) 342-3800; (202) 944-3126 Info@saudiembassy.net 
Canada: (613) 237-4100; (613) 237-0567
UK: +44 (0)20 7917 3000; ukemb@mofa.gov.sa 
Australia: (02) 6250 7000; (02) 6282 8911

ICC is a Washington-DC based human rights organization that exists to help persecuted Christians worldwide. ICC delivers humanitarian aid, trains and supports persecuted pastors, raises aware ness in the US regarding the problem of persecution, and is an advocate for the persecuted on Capitol Hill and the State Department.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - July 31, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:18:16 PM
Religion Today Summaries - July 31, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Bush Meets with Chinese Activists
    * Sudan: Ministries Help Prepare for 2009 Election
    * Iran: Jailed Christian in Critical Condition
    * Ethiopia: Interfaith Peace Council Launches

 

Bush Meets with Chinese Activists

Christian Post reports President George W. Bush met to "discuss his concerns about human rights in China" with five Chinese activists Tuesday. According to White House spokeswoman Dana Perino, Bush assured them of his stance of China's human rights abuses and said he will bring those concerns with him to Beijing, where he will meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao along with attending Olympic events. "Engagement with Chinese leaders gives him an opportunity to make the United States' position clear, human rights and religious freedom should not be denied to anyone," Perino said. The meeting follows an Amnesty International report Tuesday that accused Chinese authorities of "tarnishing the legacy of the games by withholding access to journalists, blocking many Web sites, and cracking down on human rights activists.

Sudan: Ministries Help Prepare for 2009 Election

Mission News Network reports that peace may be on paper in Sudan, but an agreement to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in July 2009 may plunge the country back into war. The North-South civil war killed almost two million people and cost four million more their homes, wreaking even more destruction than Darfur between 1983 and 2005, when the peace agreement was signed. Now, ministries such as Sammy Tippit Ministries and Eternal Concepts are helping churches prepare for the worst and prepare to spread the gospel. Discipleship seminars are helping students and church leaders learn not only evangelism, but essentials of the faith and how they apply to the current situation. One seminar included 40 youth leaders from various churches and the denominational heads of all five major churches in Southern Sudan.

Iran: Jailed Christian in Critical Condition

Compass Direct News reports that a diabetic Iranian Christian jailed for two months is in critical condition due to lack of medical treatment, even as new reports of arrests against Christians surfaced this week. Mahmood Matin and Arash Bandari have become frail from more than two months in prison, but the condition of Bandari, who suffers from diabetes, is critical. After two months of solitary confinement at a secret police detention center known by its address, Sepah Street 100, located in the center of Shiraz, Matin and Arash were placed in a cell together around July 15, sources told Compass. In the past 10 days, Iran's Christians have reported that another wave of arrests hit four cities. Christians attending house churches in Bandar Abbas on the southern coast, in Isfahan 334 kilometers (207 miles) south of Tehran, and in Sanandaj and Kermanshah on the Iraqi border were arrested. Sources told Compass that Christians in these cities were held anywhere from one day to a week by the government.

Ethiopia: Interfaith Peace Council Launches

ASSIST News Service reports that United Religions Initiative (URI), an organization committed to creating inter-faith dialogue announced the launch of a National Interfaith Peace Council in Ethiopia on Tuesday. A press release issued by URI noted: "Religions and faith based organizations have a major role to play in promoting a culture of peace, healing and reconciliation." URI went on to report that The Peace Council was comprised of representatives from the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, Ethiopian Islamic Supreme Council, Ethiopian Catholic Church, Ethiopian Evangelical Mekane Yesus Church, the Baha'i Faith and Interfaith Peace-building Initiative. Meanwhile, a mob of Islamic extremists stoned Seid Ahmed and Musa Ibrahim [names changed for security reasons] in Jijiga, a city on border with Somalia. The attack is the latest attack against Christians in Ethiopia where the spread of radical Islam is fueling the persecution of Christians.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 1, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:19:59 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 1, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Churches and Security Measures
    * Rick Warren Says Pastors Shouldn't Endorse Politicians
    * Special Needs Sunday Schools on the Rise
    * Court Orders University to Recognize Christian Fraternity

Churches and Security Measures


According to OneNewsNow.com, the recent shooting at a Tennessee Unitarian Universalist church has many churches asking what they can do to protect their congregations. Jeff Hawkins, a former Chicago police officer and current security chief for the Answers In Genesis Creation Museum, says unfortunately many Christian organizations have adopted the "it can't happen here" approach to security. "They really have to look at it very holistically and look at the overall scope of what can possibly happen inside their churches and then come up with plans, formulate plans and practice the things that they've put in place to deal with things when they happen," he explains. Ushers, for example, "really need to be trained to recognize the potential of something suspicious, or somebody's behavior that's just not acting right and contacting the police immediately, before something happens." Currently, most states that recognize citizens' Second Amendment right to carry firearms also prohibit them from exercising that right in churches, schools, and most other government buildings.

Rick Warren Says Pastors Shouldn't Endorse Politicians

The Christian Post reports that pastor Rick Warren said he does not believe pastors should endorse political candidates in an interview held weeks ahead of Saddleback Church's leadership and compassion forum. The August 16 forum features presidential candidates John McCain and Barack Obama. "I don't think it's right for pastors to endorse [a political candidate] in the first place," Warren told CNN when asked if he thinks McCain was right to disavow controversial pastors John Hagee and Rod Parsley. "I would never endorse a candidate. I would never campaign for a candidate," he added. "I think as a pastor my role is to pastor all the flock regardless of their political persuasion, so I wouldn't have wanted endorsements anyways." During the forum, Obama and McCain are expected to answer questions from Warren about faith and moral issues such as poverty, HIV/AIDS, climate change and human rights. "I believe in the separation of church and state, but I do not believe in the separation of faith and politics," Warren said.

Special Needs Sunday Schools on the Rise

Special needs advocates are fond of pointing out that Jesus spent much of His ministry among people with disabilities. However, the message of His ministry was for everyone, said Carlton McDaniel, special needs specialist for LifeWay Christian Resources, Baptist Press reports. "The second half of that story is that by meeting the needs of those He helped and gravitating to people in need, He really modeled love to the able-bodied," McDaniel said during the July 11-14 Sunday School Week. Considering that attendance at special needs conference sessions has quadrupled from past Sunday School conferences, churches may be getting that message. "I see people with disabilities being more visible in the community, more included in life and not shut behind doors anymore, praise God," said Jo Ann Banks of Weaverville, N.C. Starting a special ministry requires a "people-centered" outlook rather than one that is people-driven, McDaniel said.

Court Orders University to Recognize Christian Fraternity


The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit ordered officials at the University of Florida to recognize a Christian fraternity, The Christian Post reports. The fraternity, Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX), or Brothers Under Christ, had filed a lawsuit for discrimination. Judges from the federal appeals court in Atlanta issued the injunction on Wednesday, ordering the school to officially acknowledge the 23-year-old fraternity currently allowed on at least 20 other campuses nationwide. The fraternity will be able to operate as an active "on-campus" student organization at the university this fall. "This ruling is encouraging to the young men of Beta Upsilon Chi at the University of Florida, but more importantly it makes a strong national statement that the rights of religious freedom and free association must be respected by universities," said Brett Williams, board member of Beta Upsilon Chi.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 2, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:21:39 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 2, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Bush to Attend Church in China, Urge Religious Freedom
    * Baptist Pastor in Azerbaijan Still in Jail
    * Chinese Gov't Plans a Browse through Foreign Journalists' Internet History
    * Warren's 'Long-Term Relationship' with Rwanda

Bush to Attend Church in China, Urge Religious Freedom

According to a report on Breitbart.com citing of the President's top aides, George W. Bush plans to attend church while in China for the opening of the Olympic Games next month, and will speak about freedom of religion. "When he goes to church on Sunday (August 10) he will make a statement afterwards in which he discusses his view on religious freedom in China," said national security council director of Asian Affairs Dennis Wilder. "You can deliver the message of freedom without politicizing the events of the game," Wilder said. "The president will have diplomatic meetings with the Chinese leadership that are separate from the games. And in those meetings with the Chinese leaders he will of course bring up these issues."

Baptist Pastor in Azerbaijan Still in Jail

ASSIST News Service reports that the judge in the criminal trial of Baptist pastor Hamid Shabanov in Azerbaijan has not yet convicted him. Defense lawyer Mirman Aliev told Felix Corley of Forum 18 News Service that he asked for Shabanov to be acquitted, for an end to the criminal case and for him to be freed. "But the judge was afraid to do so, and instead sent the case back for further investigation," Aliev told Forum 18. Aliev said the judge ordered the re-investigation to be complete by Aug. 23, ready for a new trial. "We expect they will try again to imprison Shabanov - and we will try again to get him freed," Aliev told Forum 18. "He's not guilty. They are doing this solely because he is a Christian." The judge rejected the lawyer's application to have Shabanov released pending the retrial.

Chinese Gov't Plans a Browse through Foreign Journalists' Internet History

China is backtracking on its assurances of open access to foreign journalists during the Olympic Games, says a release from the Institute on Religion and Democracy. Hotel documents cited by U.S. Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) reveal that all the major hotel chains serving the 2008 Summer Olympics have been ordered to install monitoring software by China's Public Security Bureau, and that Olympic reporters' access to certain websites is being restricted. One document said, "In order to ensure the smooth opening of Olympic in Beijing and the Expo in Shanghai in 2010, safeguard the security of Internet network and the information thereon in the hotels... it is required that your company install and run the Security Management System." According to the Los Angeles Times, the Public Security Bureau's order to the hotels says that failure to comply could result in financial penalties, suspension of access to the Internet or the loss of a license to operate a hotel in China.

Warren's 'Long-Term Relationship' with Rwanda

Cynthia McFadden recently interviewed Rick Warren on ABC's "Nightline" about the pastor and author's work in the African nation of Rwanda. "I've been coming to Rwanda for three years now," said Warren. "I think this is my 10th extended trip. The Rwanda I read about in the press and the real Rwanda are two different things." 200,000 people have HIV and 800,000 children are orphaned in Rwanda, a nation the world has hesitated to help since the genocide of 900,000 people 14 years ago. Warren believes "the problem with so many humanitarian efforts is that they just come in and leave. They come for a little while. They take a picture. They go home and put it in a brochure and raise funds. We're not into that. We're into long-term relationships." Many of the locals see Warren as someone who cares -- someone who is making a difference.

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 5, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:23:20 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 5, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Graham Visits North Korea as 'Minister of Christ'
    * Christian, Muslim Leaders Report Progress at Yale Talks
    * Barna Examines What Americans Want
    * Greg Laurie's Son Christopher Remembered

Graham Visits North Korea as 'Minister of Christ'

The Christian Post reports that Franklin Graham arrived in North Korea on Thursday. On the agenda: a visit with high-level government officials, viewing relief projects and preaching at a newly constructed church in Pyongyang. "I do not come to you today as a politician or diplomat," Graham said after arriving in Pyongyang. "I come to you instead as a minister of Jesus Christ with a message of peace -- peace with God, peace in our hearts and peace with each other... In many ways, I feel like I'm coming home," Franklin Graham said. "North Korea was so close to my mother's heart, and she often told us about growing up in Pyongyang." Samaritan's Purse, the relief organization Graham heads, has also been working on aid projects in the country for the past year in response to devastating floods last August.

Christian, Muslim Leaders Report Progress at Yale Talks

According to Religion News Service, following up on a public exchange of letters last year about the need for Christian and Muslim understanding, leaders and scholars representing both faiths have begun the task of trying to make their calls more "concrete." One of the "practical outcomes" of a four-day (July 28-31) meeting at Yale University was to call for Christian and Muslim clerics to speak publicly during a designated week each year in praise of the other's tradition. Asked at the conclusion of the meeting how this might be implemented, Ibrahim Kalin, the director of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research in Ankara, Turkey, suggested the idea could be taken to the United Nations. Such a proposal might strike outsiders as limited, but theologians and religious leaders here said it represents a small but necessary step toward reducing tensions in a post-9/11 world.

Barna Examines What Americans Want

What Americans want most in life varies clearly depending on their spiritual commitment, Baptist Press reports according to a recent study by The Barna Group found. Evangelicals, notional Christians and atheists, among others, gave significantly different answers when they were asked to rate what goals are important to them in life. "The data provide a distinct image of each faith group," George Barna said. "Evangelicals are intensely driven by their faith. Their life is substantially influenced by their beliefs, and their lifestyle choices and aspirations reflect the centrality of their spirituality. Non-evangelical born again adults consider faith to be important but it is not the defining aspect of their existence; it is influential but not the determining factor," Barna added. "Notional Christians treat faith as just one of many dimensions of their life that serves a purpose, but it is not a driving force at all. Skeptics have replaced faith with a passion for healthy longevity and personal pleasure gained through world travel, sexual experiences and obtaining knowledge," he said.

Greg Laurie's Son Christopher Remembered

ASSIST News Service reports that friends and family remembered Christopher Laurie's passion for life Friday. According to a story by Laurie Lucas and published in the Riverside Press-Enterprise (PE), nearly 2,500 people gathered at Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside to celebrate the life of Senior Pastor Greg Laurie's son during a two-hour memorial service. Christopher Laurie, 33, died in a car accident at 9 a.m. July 24. He was on the way from his Huntington Beach home to the church where he'd been the art director for three years. His car crashed into the back of a Caltrans truck on eastbound Highway 91 near Corona. According to the PE, about 90 people attended the private burial Thursday at Pacific View Cemetery in Newport Beach, said Jeff Lasseigne, one of Harvest's assistant pastors. At Friday's memorial, Greg Laurie spoke for 15 minutes. The PE reported  the elder Laurie said that on July 24, "the worst day of my life," he lost track of time. When well-wishers ask, "How are you doing today?" the PE reported Laurie said it depends on which "nanosecond" you're talking about, because he and his wife, Cathe, take turns crying and comforting one another. Laurie said his son's wife, Brittany, is "trusting but hurting deeply."

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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 6, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 06, 2008, 11:25:17 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 6, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Top Hamas Leader's Son Converts to Christianity
    * BYU, Notre Dame, Wheaton 'Most Religious' U.S. Colleges, Survey Says
    * IBS-STL Challenges Churches to End Modern Day Slavery
    * Unitarians Rededicate Church Where Gunman Killed Two

Top Hamas Leader's Son Converts to Christianity

According to The Christian Post, the son of a top Hamas leader has converted to Christianity, an Israeli newspaper reported. Masab Yousef, son of West Bank Hamas leader Sheik Hassan Yousef, revealed in an exclusive interview with Haaretz newspaper that he has left Islam and is now a Christian. Yousef's family previously did not know of his faith. "[T]his interview will open many people's eyes, it will shake Islam from the roots, and I'm not exaggerating," Yousef, 30, said. Yousef is now living in the United States. "I was about to become one of those homeless people [in the U.S.]," he confessed, "but people from the church are helping me. I'm dependent on them." He also dreams that someday he can return to his homeland and prays his family will someday accept Jesus Christ as their savior.

BYU, Notre Dame, Wheaton 'Most Religious' U.S. Colleges, Survey Says

The Princeton Review's annual college rankings list, which is entirely based upon student responses, listed, among other things, the country's 20 "Most Religious" colleges. The survey is designed to help prospective students answer the question: "How do you know that you'll be comfortable -- and that others will be comfortable with you -- at your chosen college? We dish the dirt about demographic backgrounds, lifestyle attitudes, and religion on campus." 120,000 students at 368 colleges and universities were asked to what degree they agreed with the statement, "Students are very religious at my college." The top 10 were revealed to be: Brigham Young University (UT), University of Notre Dame (IN), Wheaton College (IL), Grove City College (PA), Hillsdale College (MI), University of Dallas (TX), Thomas Aquinas College (CA), College of the Ozarks (AR), Furman University (SC), and Samford University (AL). Other major colleges making the list include Baylor, Texas A&M, Auburn, and the University of Utah. The United States Air Force Academy's inclusion may prove surprising to some. Interestingly, Brandeis University in Waltham, MA came in as the No. 18 most religious college, while also making the "most liberal students" list. Ranking as the "Least Religious" institutions of higher education were Lewis & Clark College (OR); Eugene Lang College (NY); Reed College, known to some in evangelical circles as the Portland, Oregon school Donald Miller writes extensively about in his book Blue Like Jazz; Bennington College (VT); and Bard College (NY).

IBS-STL Challenges Churches to End Modern Day Slavery

According to a report by Mission Network News, an estimated 800,000 people are trafficked across borders each year. To combat this modern day slave trade, IBS-STL Global is partnering with Bristol Bay Production and World Changers, LLC. The organizations share a common goal of changing the world by ending human trafficking, so they have created a resource kit to help churches engage in the battle. The kit includes: Amazing Grace DVD, World-Changers Live to Serve book by Bob Beltz and Walt Kallestad, Five-week, small-group discussion guide, and Once Blind: The Life of John Newton book by Kay Marshall Strom. Many countries rationalize human trafficking as an economic necessity. China, India, Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the countries on the U.S. list of worst offenders, though the United States itself has its share of offenders.

Unitarians Rededicate Church Where Gunman Killed Two

Religion News Service reports that Unitarian Univeralists in Knoxville, Tenn., reopened their doors on Sunday (Aug. 3), just one week after a gunman opened fire during a production of a church musical and left two people dead. "This sanctuary, which has been defiled by violence, we rededicate to peace. This holy place, which has been desecrated by an act of hatred, we reconsecrate for love," the Rev. Chris Buice told an overflow crowd at Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church. Joined by two former ministers, Buice praised the congregation's commitment to progressive social justice in the face of violence. "(The gunman) came into this space with a desire to do an act of hatred. But he has unleashed unspeakable acts of love," Buice said. According to Knoxville police, Jim D. Adkisson, 58, opened fire during a July 27 performance of the musical, "Annie," killing two and wounding seven. In a letter found in Adkisson's car, the shooter blamed the church's liberal teachings for his current unemployment.

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Title: Gay Issues Left Undecided at Lambeth Conference
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:41:44 PM
Gay Issues Left Undecided at Lambeth Conference
Rebekah Montgomery


Whether or not you are Anglican or Episcopal, you will want to take notice of what happened--or didn't happen--at the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, southeast England. Regardless of denominational affiliations, the same issues chaffing Anglicans worldwide are demanding the attention of nearly every group of believers and very well may affect your church's direction now and in the future.

Some 650 bishops attended the 20-day conference, which ended July 31, for intensive sessions of worship, study, and discussion. Yet, about a quarter of the Anglica Communion's bishops--including most from Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda--opted to stay away after the Church of England, the Communion's mother church, okayed women as bishops.

Regardless of their boycott, the ordination of practicing homosexual clergy and same-sex union blessings/marriages remained the bigger flashpoints of the Lambeth Conference. Voices pro and con discussed these issues. In the end, Anglican leadership placed a moratorium on making any decision. Neither side won. Or lost. And nobody was happy.

Yet, according to some, avoiding taking a stand doesn't mean nothing will happen.

Reverend Peter Frank, spokesman for Anglican Communion Network, an evangelical renewal movement, said that by design, the Lambeth Conference was structured to forestall any decision-making.

"It was depressing for those who hoped the Anglican Communion would return to mainstream Christianity," said Frank.

Further, because of the moratorium on decisions concerning ordination of gays and same-sex unions, Frank foresees a widening in the present divisions between liberal and conservative factions.

"Nether side will wait for another 10 years to act," said Frank. "The moratorium will empower the innovative to be freer to act because they know that nothing on the radar will happen to them. However, it (the lack of any official decisions) will empower the defenders of the faith to be realistic, not count on the leadership, and organize within the structure. And they are in the majority."

Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, upon whose invitation Lambeth Conference conferees attend, attempted to sidestep directly confronting issues concerning gay bishops and same-sex unions by not inviting Reverend Gene Robinson, a homosexual bishop of the New Hampshire diocese who recently married his partner. Robinson was elected to the bishopric June 7, 2003, sparking action between opposing factions in both the Anglican Communion and Episcopal Church.

Frank says that even before the Robinson ordination, the church was drifting theologically, promoting goddess worship, selling books of spells, and "lots of crazy things." For those maintaining a traditional view of Anglican worship and the authority of scriptures, Robinson's election was, said Frank, "the straw that broke the camel's back." Subsequently evangelical renewal groups formed to stem the trend.

While Robinson was not invited to Lambeth and thus could not attend the conference, nevertheless, his presence was felt. And his voice heard. While delivering a sermon at a church in south London, a lone protester denounced Robinson as a heretic and repeatedly called on the bishop to repent. Robinson's supporters clapped to drown out the protester's voice.

The question remains: Will the Anglican Communion hear the voice of protest?

Frank fears that unless there is a heeding to the call for repentance from the renewal movement, in another 50 years, the Anglican Communion will be centered in Africa and Asia; while in the United States, it will dwindle to half or a quarter that it is today and be less Christian.

But Frank also sees hope on the horizon as Anglican leaders meet at the end of August. "We may not solve or deal with every issue. But we can get on to being an Anglicans and Christians."
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Title: The State of Religion in London: Interview with an American Missionary Part 1
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:46:42 PM
The State of Religion in London: Interview with an American Missionary Part 1
Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Faith Editor,


Islamicization. "No-go zones." Moral vacuum. Empty churches. Anglican schizm.

These are just a few of the phrases regarding the state of religion in England that have made their way across our desks here at Crosswalk in the past year. How much is really true?

Every American student is taught that our land was colonized by Christian Brits seeking a new life and freedom from a state-imposed Church, so it's interesting to consider our common roots, whether we're headed in the same direction just several years behind, and whether the roles have reversed several centuries later.

A couple months ago, thanks to Facebook, I regained contact with a college roomate, Tim Miller, who has lived in London for several years, doing ministry with his wife Jamie. I forwarded Tim many of the articles and columns about England & Religion (view the ones I sent him at the end of this interview) we'd run from various sources in the past several months, and asked him to read them and see how they jived with his experiences and encounters. He was happy to give Crosswalk readers the straight scoop as he's seen it first-hand...

Tim Miller: A disclaimer or two before I begin:

First, my experience is almost exclusively London-based. It would be an understatement to suggest that Scotts, Northern Irish, Welsh, and even English people living outside of London would have different points of view on a number of the questions you've given me to answer. That said, the one thing most of these groups have in common is their cynicism towards religion.

Second, I'll approach your questions from two strands. One strand will be observations of the Muslim people we work with, the other will concern itself with our observations of the Brits we know, worship with, and live around.

Crosswalk.com: What is your role with the Salvation Army, and what ministry are you doing in the UK?

Miller: I actually have two roles with the Salvation Army in the UK. My actual title is Divisional Youth Officer which requires me to help with the oversight of the Army's youth work around the city of London. This includes meeting with youth workers, helping to equip them through resources and training, holding them accountable in some cases, assessing their work in other cases, and also meeting with local Salvation Army ministries who are interested in getting started in youth work.

My second role is that of church planter. Shortly after moving to the UK, a Salvation Army-owned building became available in our neighbourhood and my wife and I were approached about starting a ministry there. Jamie is actually the director of our local ministry, and I officially serve as a volunteer but, as anybody who has ever church-planted knows, it is a full-time job that really should be attended by a small team of workers.

We actually started our ministry in the community by leading after-school educational activities that dealt with learning the English language. We were (still are) living and working in a community that had over 350 different languages represented which created a real barrier for young people who were trying to work their way through school. Not only was listening to English speaking teachers a barrier but, with no English speaking parents at home, homework was a real struggle.

Since that time we have also begun working with adults, offering English classes and a community support group that helps immigrants get their children enrolled in school, helps families get signed up for a local doctor, and also helps to translate English documents into different languages.


I think one of the things I've learned through this style of ministry is that once people know how much you care, they care how much you know. It pains me to say it because it's a real cliché. The funny thing is, while I've heard it said a million times, I've rarely ever seen it put into practice, even by those making that statement from the pulpits.

When we moved to this neighbourhood, which at the time was a strictly Muslim neighbourhood, we knew that we had two immediate strikes against us that would need to be overcome: first, we were Christians, and second, we were Americans. Those were tough odds and, as for the American part, there was no way of hiding it. Neither of us can fake a British accent to save our lives. So with that in mind, we set out to dispel the myths (and sometimes realities) that often go hand-in-hand with American Christians.

First, we made it clear that we are here to serve. And when anybody asked us why we did what we did, we took it as an opportunity to explain that the Christian faith compelled us to do it.

In the past few years we've come to believe that many versions of the American Christian faith are quite condemning, even though Jesus specifically said that He did not come to condemn. We've also been reminded that Jesus' message was always described as "Good News," and that it furthermore seemed to be especially "Good News" to the poor (Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 11:5, Luke 4:18, Luke 7:22). With that in mind, and if the "Good News" only referred to the afterlife, why does the message go hand-in-hand with the poor so often? That says to me that there must be something more to "The Good News" than simply answering the question of the afterlife. We've come to believe that Jesus' gospel message addressed the issues of here and now, as well as the issues of the afterlife. It's a much broader sweeping redemption than we were originally taught to believe.

With this theology firmly in place, we set out to serve the community and to build relationships in the community. And it worked. Don't get me wrong, there were hiccups along the way. And I can't pretend that there weren't those who weren't suspicious of us (this was made clear the day two of our Bengali-Muslim boys suggested that we vote for Osama Bin Laden in the 2004 Presidential elections), but we continued to serve people and, when asked, took the opportunity to inform people that Jesus' message compelled us to love and serve our neighbours.

It's been four years since we moved into the neighbourhood and, though resources have been very hard to come by, our relationships with people continue to grow. It is now a fairly common occurrence to be invited into Muslim homes for a meal or even to celebrate religious holidays. What's more, we started a group for young people in January and 60 percent of those attending are Muslim. Most of them are young men. One of our Muslim mothers even cooks the meal for this Bible study despite the fact that it is plainly advertised as a discussion about God, the Bible, and the Christian religion. Apparently, now that they know how much we care, they're willing to listen to how much we know. I only pray that what we say will represent Christ's message of "loving God and loving our neighbour" well.

CW: We read a lot about issues within the Anglican Church. What's the local perspective?

Miller: As for the Anglican Church, there is certainly a large percentage of them that are dying, but there's also a movement within the Anglican church that seems to be rising up out of the ashes. As you know, there is great concern regarding the split taking place across the world in this denomination. The Church of England seems to be somewhere between the ultra-liberal American Episcopal version of Anglicanism and the fiercely conservative branch in Africa. That said, outside of the strong relationship we have with the local Church of England in our own neighbourhood, I can't tell you much more.
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Title: The State of Religion in London: Interview with an American Missionary Part 2
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:48:13 PM
The State of Religion in London: Interview with an American Missionary Part 2
Shawn McEvoy, Crosswalk.com Faith Editor,

CW: Europe and the UK are often written about as becoming 'Islamicized.' Do you see this happening where you live, and is it truly a concern? Have you gone into a 'no-go zone'?

Miller: I think different people would probably have different definitions for the term "Islamicized" and I think that it's a bit of an alarmist's word. To me, "Islamicized" means that a country is being run by Muslim clerics and/or according to Muslim law.  That certainly can't be said of a country that continues to debate whether or not Muslim girls should be allowed to wear headscarves in school and where members of Parliament suggest to the media that Muslim women should never be allowed to cover their face in a public setting in Great Britain.

What I would suggest is that the British seem to understand that if we're ever to heal the great rift that exists between so-called Muslim nations and so-called Christian nations, we're going to have to do our best to understand each other and to respect each other, even if we disagree with each other. And I know that it's very difficult to respect a religion whose values seem to fly in the face of our very own, but consider the following:

    * While many Americans consider it sexist to ask a woman to cover her head, many Muslims consider it disrespectful for a woman to be uncovered. For them, it isn't a matter of keeping a woman in her place, it's a matter of respecting her by not exposing her to a man who is not married to her.  Consider the fact that many Muslim men will not shake my wife's hand. It's not because they deem her unclean, but because they believe that it would be disrespectful to their own wife to even shake the hand of another woman.
    * Consider also that they see America, a self-described "Christian country," as a country with absolutely no morals. They see our media where women parade half-naked on stage, they watch as our military sends women to the front lines, and they watch as Christians continue to worship what they see as a prophet (Jesus Christ) alongside the one true God.

From these perspectives, and so much more, Muslims here have just as much to overcome in respecting us as we do them. Mind you, I'm speaking of mainstream Muslims here and not the extremists. I think it would be fair to say that neither Muslims nor Christians would be happy to have their extremists representing them around the world.

One other thing that your readers might find interesting is that Muslims in London absolutely have as many false notions about Christians as Christians do about Muslims.  For instance, when one of my Muslim girls caught me typing out a few paragraphs for a Christian article, she looked at me puzzled and said, "Sir, you're not a Christian." To which I replied, "I'm not?" To which she responded, "No. You're a Protestant!"

Many of our other Muslim young people have cornered me on issues such as our "worship of Mary." Something else American Christians might be interested to know is that up to 25 percent of the Kurds living throughout the Middle East are Christian. Many estimates suggest that there are just as many Christians living in Palestine as well.

As for "no-go zones," again, that would be a matter of perspective. Many people would probably consider our neighborhood a "no-go zone." We do not.

CW: What do you think are the most specific issues and challenges to religion/Christianity/the gospel in the UK?

Miller: In addition to the obvious issues facing the spread of the gospel among the Islamic population of Great Britain, the following are some of the issues we face in sharing the gospel with the indigenous peoples of Great Britian:

Somewhere along the way - I'm not sure when - Brits became quite wary of mixing religion and politics. However, I do know that most Brits point to America as the reason why they are wary.

Both British believers and non-believers cannot reconcile the idea of Christians believing in the death penalty, the right to carry firearms, a pro-war stance, or opposing healthcare for the poor. For them these ideas are completely opposed to the teachings of Christ.  They have watched U.S. President after U.S. President claim to be a Christian while standing up against all of the values which they associate with the message of Christianity. Because of this, they are extremely wary of politicians who claim to be Christian, so they would rather keep religion and politics separate. And they would point to the hypocrisy of religion in American politics as the reason why.

It's a bit of a dichotomy really because, on one hand, Brits would like to keep religion and politics separate, yet they're also very critical of the fact that so many American Christians seem to be so hypocritical when it comes to their religion and politics. There seems to be this overriding belief in the UK that Americans have sold out religiously. And that's just among the British believers. As for the unbelievers, they look at the above concerns and see nothing about Christianity that's admirable. One of the toughest battles I fight with liberals is that many of them are doing more "good work" than many Christians I know. Between that and the traditional stances on the death penalty, war, equal rights, and gun control, sadly they see nothing morally redeemable about our faith at all.
_____________________________________


Title: 'Buzz' in China Yields to Elaborate Opening Ceremony
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:49:39 PM
'Buzz' in China Yields to Elaborate Opening Ceremony
Tim Ellsworth

August 12, 2008

BEIJING (BP) -- More than 91,000 people watched the long-awaited and elaborately produced opening ceremony to start the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing Aug. 8 at the "Bird's Nest" National Stadium.

The four-hour ceremony celebrated the cultural history of China and featured thousands of performers, intricate choreography and dazzling light displays. More than 15,000 costumes were used in the production.

Rehearsal for some performances began 13 months ago, and volunteers began their first mass rehearsal in March.

Following the production, the ceremony featured the traditional parade of athletes from 205 countries, brief addresses from Liu Qiu, president of the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games, and Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee, and the declaration of the official opening of the Olympics by Hu Jintao, president of the People's Republic of China.

The ceremony concluded with the entry of the Olympic flag, an oath by the athletes to abide by the rules "in the true spirit of sportsmanship, for the glory of sport and the honor of our teams" and the lighting of the Olympic torch. The torch relay began April 1 and crossed five continents and 21 countries, with more than 2,000 people bearing the flame.

"This is a very special season," Beijing resident Tan Yu Huai said prior to the ceremony. "Right now it is a very special Beijing. Right now it is the greatest time in China."

Philadelphia resident Nancy Whelan and her sister, Mary Ann Whelan of New York, were decked out in red, white and blue to cheer for the United States during the ceremony.

They began planning their trip to the Beijing Olympics two years ago, but the trip was in jeopardy when Mary Ann broke her leg in six places at the end of June.

But Mary Ann got approval from her doctor only one week ago for the journey.

"We're just ... thrilled to be here," Nancy said.

Mark Tedder, an American, lives in Beijing and won a ticket for the opening ceremony in an online ticketing lottery about a year ago.

"I think everybody in Beijing's excited," Tedder said. "Here in the city there's been a buzz. It's been exciting over the last two years to see how the city's grown and to see how they've built new buildings for the Olympics."

Tedder and his family came to Beijing two years ago so he could serve a two-year commitment as worship leader at Beijing International Christian Fellowship. They will return to the United States at the end of August.

"I think the government and the people who relate to the Olympics specifically are expecting China to have its coming out party these next few weeks," Tedder said of the Olympics. "As a result of that, I think it will put China on the world stage."

He also thinks the Olympics may open up opportunities for people to come to China to live, teach and minister. That's a sentiment shared by many local pastors, Tedder said, that the aftermath of the Olympics may lead to greater religious freedom in a country that has historically denied Christians full freedom to worship without government approval.

"No one knows for sure," Tedder said, "but because they've opened their doors so wide, I think there's an incredible opportunity for people to come and give themselves away for a year or two years."
_____________________________________________


Title: Mongolia: Two Missionaries Released from Detention
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:50:56 PM
Mongolia: Two Missionaries Released from Detention
Michael Ireland


August 13, 2008

Two Others Remain in Detention

INNER MONGOLIA -- Two of the four missionaries detained in Inner Mongolia in early July have been released after serving 30 days administrative detention.

China Aid Association (CAA) says that Yu Yongqing and Li Shusen were released on Aug. 6 and Aug 10, respectively.

Yu Yongqing was released after paying an undisclosed amount of money to Public Security Bureau (PSB) officials for his release.

Two of the four detained missionaries, Li Li and Wang Shuang remain in detention.

CAA says Mr. Wang's wife and sister visited the PSB detention center where he was being held and upon entering the station they were shown into Wang's cell where he was seen being hung by handcuffs. The two women left seriously distraught yet helpless to change the situation.

The other detainee, Li Li has been diagnosed by PSB officials as having a serious lung disease and possibly lung cancer. Detention guard officials, fearful that Li will die under their watch, have determined that Li will be placed under house detention with the condition that Li will promise not to escape while at home.

In a July 31 report by China Aid, the human rights watch group said the four missionaries in Inner Mongolia were arrested on July 20 and that police also searched their houses. Among the arrested, Wang Shuang was hung up and tortured by the police.

In that report, CAA said that missionary Li Li and her husband Li Shusen were arrested on July 17. At 9:00 p.m. on July 25, missionary Wang Shuang was taken away by the police and arrested. The charges against them were "utilizing a cult to undermine the implementation of the state law."

According to an insider, "The authorities are apt to arrest leaders of the churches. They arrest whoever is in charge of the affairs. A sister of mine and I went to visit Li Li at a detention center and tried to give her some luggage. They directed us to the Homeland Security Defense Brigade office.

"The Homeland Security Defense Brigade of the Municipal Public Security Bureau is in charge of arresting people. They asked me direct questions and the investigation was thorough. They asked me how many years I have been a Christian and where I was baptized. Upon seeing me, she knew immediately that I am an ordinary believer and not a leader. Therefore, she didn't arrest us."

According to information obtained by China Aid, most of these believers are peasants living in rural suburban areas and they are very simple people without sophistication.

China Aid stated: "On the other hand, Li Li came to this area to preach the Gospel from Jilin Province. She lived in urban areas. When they first arrested Li Li, the police also took away her two brothers who were not released until the second day. The above-mentioned insider also said: 'The charges against other people are not as serious as Li Li. They accused Li Li of associating with overseas reactionaries. They said people from overseas once sent her a remittance of 1,500 at a time and sometimes even 20,000. In fact, there is no such a thing.'"

Another insider told Fang Yuan, reporter from Radio Free Asia, that when some sisters went to the PSB to visit Wang Shuang, they saw with their own eyes "a scene of horror."

The insider told the radio station: "When his sisters and his wife went to see him (Wang Shuang), they saw upon entering the door that he was being hung with handcuffs. His trousers were at the bottom and his underwear was up there without the waistband. When the sisters came back and told other people, they were shocked."

A reporter from the radio station called Wang Shuang's wife, Ms. Sun, for more information and she told him that at 9 o'clock on the 25th of the month, four policemen from the Homeland Security Defense Brigade of the Municipal Public Security Bureau climbed over the wall to enter the house of Wang Shuang. They took away Wang Shuang by force. On the second day, they interrogated her for a whole day. After that, they also searched her house.

She said: "When I went to the public security bureau to ask for the reasons, they also detained me for a day there. They interrogated me and asked me where I was baptized and where I began to believe in Jesus. After the interrogation, they hauled me back and turned my house upside down. They didn't find anything but took away my notebook and my Bible. They also destroyed my kang the warm-bed just to look for Gospel flyers and books."

The reporter said: "According to our understanding, the police also told her to go to the PSB again on Monday, July 28. She didn't go there as she is afraid."

As the police searched the houses of the four people arrested, all the belongings in the house church, including Christian books, computers and disks were all confiscated, Radio Free Asia stated.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 8, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:52:59 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 8, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Why Americans Prefer Sundays Segregated
    * Homosexual Activist Admits There is No 'Gay Gene'
    * Warren Graces TIME Cover
    * Pakistani Christian Allegedly Murdered

Why Americans Prefer Sundays Segregated

According to a report on CNN.com, many American blacks as well as whites prefer segregated Sundays, religious scholars and members of interracial churches say. The story cites an example where the senior pastor of a suburban church in California was approached by parishioners worried that the racial makeup of their small church was changing. They warned that the church's newest members would try to seize control because members of their race were inherently aggressive. "One man asked me if I was prepared for a hostile takeover," says Rev. Paul Earl Sheppard, who believes the experience demonstrated why racially integrated churches are difficult to create and even harder to sustain. According to the CNN story, only about 5 percent of U.S. churches are racially integrated, and half of those are near to becoming all-black or all-white. Researchers have found that just like in society, racial tensions in the church can erupt over everything from sharing power to interracial dating. On the flip side is the Rev. Rodney Woo, half-white, half-Chinese, senior pastor of Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston. Woo's congregation consists of blacks, whites and Latinos. When he assumed the pastorate, "white flight" was already taking place in the church, and some suggested he add a 'd' to the end of his last name. "The fear there was people would think I was Chinese. There would be a flood of all these Asians coming in, and what would we do then?" Instead, Woo made racial diversity part of the church's mission statement, preaching it and living it. Wilcrest now has about 500 members, and is evenly divided among tri-racial lines. But that doesn't mean Wilcrest has resolved all of its racial tensions."If there's not any tension, we probably haven't done too well," Woo says. "If one group feels too comfortable, we've probably neglected another group."

Homosexual Activist Admits There is No 'Gay Gene'

OneNewsNow.com reports that at least one prominent campaigner in the British homosexual movement has admitted that no genetic marker for homosexual behavior has been found. Peter Tatchell, founder of the "direct action" group OutRage!, wrote on Spiked Online that he agrees with the scientific consensus that there is no such thing as a "gay gene." Tatchell wrote, "Genes and hormones may predispose a person to one sexuality rather than another. But that's all. Predisposition and determination are two different things." Those who adhere to "born gay" theory commonly accuse Christians and others who object to the homosexual movement of being racists and bigots. Tatchell even acknowledged the existence of some who have changed their "sexual orientation."

Warren Graces TIME Cover

In this week's issue, TIME's David Van Biema profiles Rick Warren, the founding pastor of one of the country's largest churches and the host of the upcoming "civil forum," which will feature the two presumptive Presidential nominees on August 16. Also in the issue, John McCain and Barack Obama write about their own views of faith, and a new TIME poll shows that 70% of white Evangelical voters support McCain. In his profile of Warren, Van Biema writes that the pastor "is unquestionably the U.S.'s most influential and highest-profile churchman. He is a natural leader, a pathological schmoozer, insatiably curious and often the smartest person in the room. Like Graham, he projects an authenticity that has helped him forge an exquisite set of political connections -- in the White House, on both sides of the legislative aisle and abroad. And he is both leading and riding the newest wave of change in the Evangelical community: an expansion beyond social conservatism to causes such as battling poverty, opposing torture and combating global warming." Warren tells TIME that he will not give the candidates "a religion test" during the civil forum.

Pakistani Christian Allegedly Murdered


Compass Direct News reports that Pakistani police declared the death of a young Christian man in May to be a suicide requiring no investigation, but a high inspector has reopened the case and taken two Muslim suspects into custody. Adeel Masih, 19, was found dead on May 4 in Hafizabad, Pakistan. His family and human rights lawyers believe the relatives of a 19-year-old Muslim woman, Kiran Irfan, with whom Masih had a one-year relationship, tortured and killed him. Members of the Masih family said that when they first tried to register the case with local police three months ago, officers did not cooperate because the suspects were Muslim and the victim was a Christian, according to the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS). "The police said, 'We will first inquire whether Adeel has committed suicide,' because the culprits told the police about the fact that their daughter wanted to embrace Christianity because of Adeel," said Aneeqa Maria, a case worker for CLAAS. "[In] this way the police were biased and lingered on the matter, because if there is a long delay in the lodging of a first incidence report, the case becomes weak."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 11, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:54:48 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 11, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Authorities in Laos Detain 90 Christians
    * Christian Broadcasters Nervous about Fairness Doctrine
    * Chinese House Church Pastor Detained
    * Christian Rights Group Wants U.N. to Intervene in Burma Crisis

Authorities in Laos Detain 90 Christians

Compass Direct News reports that authorities in Laos have detained or arrested at least 90 Christians in three provinces in recent weeks, including an arrest Aug. 3 of a pastor and two other believers from a house church in Boukham village. Arrests were reported in the southern provinces of Saravan and Savannakhet and in Luang Prabang province in the north. In one incident on July 21, Compass sources said officials detained 80 Christians in Katin village, Saravan province, after residents seized a Christian neighbor identified only as Pew and poured rice wine down his throat, killing him by asphyxiation. When mourning family members buried the Christian and put a wooden cross on the grave, village officials accused them of "practicing the rituals of the enemy of the state" and seized a buffalo and pig from the family as a fine. On July 25, according to Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom, officials rounded up 17 of the 20 Christian families in the village -- a total of 80 men, women and children -- and detained them in a local school compound, denying them food for three days in an attempt to force the adults to sign documents renouncing their faith.

Christian Broadcasters Nervous about Fairness Doctrine

Religion News Service reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is making Christian broadcasters nervous. Pelosi, D-Calif., recently said she supports resurrecting the Fairness Doctrine, a 1949 Federal Communications Commission policy that required broadcasters who sent out specific messages to set aside time for opposing views. Such a move would "really make it impossible to preach the whole counsel of God," said Rich Bott, the owner of Kansas-based Bott Radio Network, which broadcasts Christian programming across 10 states. It would also, he said, likely put him out of business. Put in place nearly 50 years ago, the doctrine was an FCC regulation that policed the airwaves at a time when there were few other sources of information. It never carried the full weight of the law. By the 1980s, with the advent of cable television and multiple opportunities to air differing opinions, the policy fell out of favor and was finally ditched by the FCC in 1987. While Pelosi hasn't offered legislation to reinstate the policy, she has signaled that she supports its revival, and said a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Spence, R-Ind., to permanently kill it will not be considered by the Democratic-controlled House. If the Fairness Doctrine were to be reinstated by Congress, broadcasters would be legally forced to follow the old protocol: one-third of the airtime given to one opinion must be offered free-of-charge to opponents.

Chinese House Church Pastor Detained

Compass Direct News reporrts that Chinese police detained house church leader Zhang Mingxuan, along with his wife Xie Fenlang and co-pastor Wu Jiang He, at a police station in Hebei after a BBC journalist attempted to interview him on Monday (August 4). International affairs journalist John Simpson phoned Zhang to request an interview, as required in a handbook given to journalists reporting on the Olympic Games in Beijing. Zhang agreed to the interview, but as Simpson traveled to meet him, police seized Zhang and his companions and moved them to a local police station. Public Security Bureau officials had banished Zhang and his wife from Beijing for the duration of the Games, fearing they would try to meet with visiting foreign officials. After forcing Zhang and Xie to leave their home, police on July 18 entered a guesthouse where they were staying and drove them to Yanjiao in neighboring Hebei province. Zhang and Xie had moved to another, more remote town to await the completion of the Games.

Christian Rights Group Wants U.N. to Intervene in Burma Crisis

The Christian Post reports that Christian Solidarity Worldwide is calling for "urgent, specific and meaningful action" from the United Nations to address Burma's ongoing political and humanitarian crisis. CSW wants the U.N. to present Burma's regime with a list of demands, including the release of political prisoners before U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon visits in December. CSW also wants key members of the military junta to be brought before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. "Hundreds of thousands of people have needlessly died as a result of the junta's military offensives, torture, brutality, and deliberate criminal neglect," said CSW national director Stuart Windsor. "We cannot afford to wait another 20 years before the international community acts decisively in response to this political and humanitarian crisis."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 12, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:56:24 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 12, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff
Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Chinese Authorities Detain Christian Activist
    * India: Gospel for Asia Missionaries Released
    * Eritrea Shuts Christian Students into Shipping Containers
    * Episcopal Church to Apologize for Slavery



Chinese Authorities Detain Christian Activist

Security agents yesterday seized Christian activist and house church pastor Hua Huiqi on his way to a service at the government-approved Kuanjie Protestant Church in Beijing, where U.S. President George Bush was scheduled to appear, says Compass Direct News. Bush later attended the service before meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao to discuss human rights concerns, including religious freedom. Hua reportedly escaped. According to a report from The Associated Press, authorities have arrested and beaten Hua several times in recent years because of his religious activities. Hua also gained a reputation as an activist when he fought against a development project that led to the demolition of his home in 2001. In recent months, as part of a "clean-up" operation in Beijing, authorities forced him to attend services at the Kuanjie church instead, which is registered with the official Three Self Patriotic Movement.

India: Gospel for Asia Missionaries Released

Assist News reports that four Gospel for Asia missionaries being held in a Karnataka, India, jail were released Friday after spending more than a week there. They are now being taken to a hospital for medical treatment. The missionaries, Yohan Samuel, Raj Lohra, Nanji Bir and Shobha Joshi*, were arrested July 31 and charged with attempting to force people to convert to Christianity and with "offending the sentiments of the people." They were granted bail on Tuesday after several days of negotiations between GFA leaders and the court. Being arrested for sharing the Gospel is not uncommon for Gospel for Asia missionaries. Several Indian states have anti-conversion laws aimed specifically at Christians and Muslims. In other places, missionaries are charged with crimes unrelated to their work in sharing the Gospel. At least two GFA missionaries are serving long-term prison sentences after being charged with crimes they did not commit.

Eritrea Shuts Christian Students into Shipping Containers

Authorities on Tuesday (August 5) locked up eight high school students at a military training school in metal shipping containers for objecting to the burning of hundreds of Bibles, sources told Compass Direct News. The eight male students from the Sawa Defense Training Centre in Sawa were incarcerated after military authorities confiscated more than 1,500 personal Bibles from new students arriving for the academic year. "During the time that the Bibles were set on fire, the chief commander of Sawa, Col. Debesai Ghide, gave a warning to all the students by telling them that Sawa is a place of patriotism, not a place for 'Pentes' [Pentecostals],'" said one source. Reading the Bible privately, discussing the Christian faith with other students and praying before or after meals alone or in groups is forbidden at the center, the source said.

Episcopal Church to Apologize for Slavery

Continuing its efforts to address a practice some members call "a stain on the church," the Episcopal Church will hold a "Day of Repentance" to publicly apologize for its involvement in the slave trade. Religion News Service reports the ceremony, mandated by a 2006 resolution at the church's General Convention, will take place Oct. 3-4 in Philadelphia. "We hope to set a model for other denominations about how to face this dark, tragic part of our history because we believe that only when you repent can you move on," said Jayne Oasin, program officer for the church's Anti-Racism and Gender Equality program.
_____________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 13, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 13, 2008, 11:59:06 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 13, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Georgian Conflict: Aid Groups Begin Relief Efforts
    * Court: Univ. of California Can Reject Christian School Classes
    * Arab Ministry Hopes to Spark 'Upper Room' Revival in Israel
    * Poll: Homeschooling a Constitutional Right

Georgian Conflict: Aid Groups Begin Relief Efforts

The Christian Post reports that World Vision has begun providing emergency assistance in the form of food, soap, blankets and other essentials to civilians displaced by the conflict in Georgia. The United Nations' World Food Program has also started providing food rations to some 2,000 people. The U.N. agencies and NGOs are working closely together to coordinate an effective response. Since Friday, more than 2,000 people had been killed, according to a Russian official. "I have seen war, but what I saw today was terrible," one 36-year-old mother told World Vision staff.

Court: Univ. of California Can Reject Christian School Classes

Religion News Service reports that a California federal judge has ruled that the University of California had a "rational basis" for rejecting science and history courses taught at Christian high schools. Calvary Chapel Christian School in Murrieta, Calif., and the Association of Christian Schools International had charged that the university had an unconstitutional admissions process because it refused to certify courses that taught creationism and other beliefs. Private school students are required to meet certain high-school requirements before they can be eligible to apply to one of the undergraduate campuses of the University of California. U.S. District Court Judge S. James Otero ruled Friday (Aug. 8 ) that concerns about a course whose primary text was called "Biology: God's Living Creation" was deemed by UC experts to have failed at teaching critical thinking or the theory of evolution in an adequate manner. The judge also said UC reviewers found that a text published by Bob Jones University titled "United States History for Christian Schools" taught that "the Bible is the unerring source for analysis of historical events" and did not include modern methods for historical analysis. In these cases, Otero said the Christian school defendants did not adequately refute the findings of UC's reviewers. The judge also found that the university system did not reject the courses out of animosity.

Arab Ministry Hopes to Spark 'Upper Room' Revival in Israel

A set of upcoming meetings aims to ignite a 1st century-style revival in Jerusalem with a gathering of Jews and Gentiles later this month, ASSIST News Service reports. "We are praying that revival will come down and that Jews and Arabs will worship together," said Jeries Kawash of Jerusalem-based Upper Room Ministries. "Jesus prayed for unity of believers and we are hoping this will bring believers of all backgrounds who are coming together to worship." "The message has gone out to the world," notes Andre Mubarak, another of Upper Room Ministries' elders, but "is far away from this city. Jerusalem is far away from revival." According to Nicole Jansezian writing for www.israeltoday.co.il , the meetings will take place Aug. 23 to 25 and will feature Andres Bisonni, a young revivalist from the United States.

Poll: Homeschooling a Constitutional Right

Baptist Press reports that more than eight in 10 Americans were at odds with a California appeals court that ruled in February that parents do not have a constitutional right to homeschool their children, according to just-released data from LifeWay Research. It seems the California appeals court now agrees. In a stunning move Aug. 8, a three-judge panel of the court reversed itself, saying the state legislature has implicitly accepted homeschooling as legal. "We... conclude that California statutes permit homeschooling as a species of private school education," the justices wrote in their unanimous decision. LifeWay Research, in an April telephone survey, found that 86 percent of the respondents agreed that, "Parents have a constitutional right to homeschool their children."
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Title: Chinese Christians Plead for Relief as Olympics Continue
Post by: nChrist on August 16, 2008, 11:42:12 PM
Chinese Christians Plead for Relief as Olympics Continue
Sarah Page


August 13, 2008

Hua Huiqi writes to President Bush; seminary staff to face trial after Games.

DUBLIN (Compass Direct News) -- Christian activist and house church pastor Hua Huiqi wrote an open letter to U.S. President George Bush on Sunday (August 10), asking for prayer for his personal safety and for freedom of belief for all Chinese people.

Earlier that day, plainclothes policemen detained Hua to prevent him participating in a service at the government-approved Kuanjie Protestant church in Beijing, where Bush was scheduled to attend.

Hua slipped away from police officers when they fell asleep; at press time he was still in hiding.

Several other Christians also remain in detention or under house arrest as the Games continue this week.

In Hua's letter, published by the China Aid Association (CAA), he thanked Bush for his "concern for the Chinese house churches" and expressed disappointment at not being able to attend the Sunday service. He also described his detention, saying that seven or eight policemen had kicked and punched him before seizing him and his brother, Hua Huilin.

"At the place where they detained us, they conducted an interrogation," Hua wrote. "They threatened me: 'We simply won't allow you to go to Kuanjie Church today. If you say you will go there again, we will break your legs.'"

Hua managed to escape but was fearful of the consequences. "Now I'm wandering outside and dare not go back home," he wrote. "I am writing this letter to implore you to pray for my personal safety and for the freedom of belief of us Chinese people."

'Dangerous Religious Element'

Also in Beijing, Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan remains in custody at the Beijing Municipal Detention Center.

Police initially arrested Shi on November 28, 2007, charging him with "illegal business practices" after he allegedly published Christian literature without authorization for distribution to house churches; but court officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence. Police, who have labeled Shi a "dangerous religious element," arrested him again on March 19.

Prison authorities have prevented family members from visiting Shi or bringing food and clothing to the detention center. Shi's lawyer, permitted to visit just once in recent weeks, confirmed that Shi's health was deteriorating and he was in need of urgent medical attention, according to CAA.

USA Today reported on Monday (August 11) that Shi's wife, Zhang Jing, said, "It is good that the president can worship here, but it's not likely that we will have more freedom or be able to register our churches."

Authorities forced Shi's Antioch Eternal Life Church to close in June.

"Several house churches have been closed before the Olympics," Zhang added. "The police say we are threatening national security and demand that my husband give up his faith."

In the same report, Dennis Wilder, U. S. National Security Council's director for Asian Affairs, said after a meeting between Bush and President Hu Jintao on Sunday (August 10) that, "Hu seemed to indicate that the door is opening on religious freedom in China and that in the future there will be more room for religious believers."

Seminary Staff Detained

Elsewhere, in Shandong province, two staff members from a house church seminary in Weifang city await trial for running an "illegal business operation" after they attempted to purchase Bibles from Amity Press, China's official Bible printing facility.

Police briefly detained teacher Jin Xiuxiang on May 20, before asking her to return home. On May 29, police and officials from the State Administration of Religious Affairs raided the seminary, arresting Jin and another teacher, Zhang Yage, along with Principal Lu Zhaojun, for "running a school without a license." They also seized seminary property, including Bibles and other Christian literature, a minivan and a bank card, according to CAA.

All three were released on May 28, after CAA reported the raid. When Lu and Jin returned to the police station on June 2 to inquire about confiscated goods, however, officials detained them again and sentenced them to one month of criminal detention for carrying out an "illegal business operation." The goods were not returned.

Authorities then released Lu and Jin on bail on July 12, informing them that they would face trial after the Games. Compass sources yesterday confirmed that Lu and Jin are under close surveillance.

House church pastor Zhang Mingxuan and his wife Xie Fenglan, detained last week after they agreed to an interview with a BBC journalist, are still in police custody, according to Compass sources.

Police had repeatedly asked Zhang and Xie to leave Beijing for the duration of the Games and eventually expelled them from their apartment. Finally, on July 18 police forcibly took them from a guesthouse in Beijing and drove them to Yanjiao in neighboring Hebei province. The couple then moved to a more remote town to await the completion of the Games, CAA reported.
____________________________________


Title: More Controversy Surrounds ?Florida Outpouring? Revivals
Post by: nChrist on August 16, 2008, 11:45:53 PM
More Controversy Surrounds ?Florida Outpouring? Revivals
Ginny McCabe

August 15, 2008

In the midst of controversy over "The Florida Outpouring" revivals, faith healer and leader Todd Bentley has unexpectedly left the revival meetings due to "personal difficulties."

According to a Bentley media representative on August 12, "He has turned the revival over to Pastor Stephen Strader of Ignited Church."

By mid-afternoon on August 12, Bentley's ministry, the Fresh Fire Ministries Board of Directors issued a message as special prayer request addressed to "partners and friends" on the ministry Web site's homepage about the nature of the personal difficulties--Bentley and his wife, Shonnah are now separated.

An excerpt from the statement said, "The Lord's blessings and abundance have been so evident on the ministry during this season of intense activity and we rejoice in seeing and being able to participate in what we believe is only the beginning of a worldwide awakening. It is with considerable sadness then, that we must temper the jubilation we know you all feel with the sobering news that Todd and Shonnah Bentley are presently experiencing significant friction in their relationship and are currently separated. We want to affirm that there has been no sexual immorality on the part of either Todd or Shonnah, nor has there ever been. Undoubtedly the pressures and the burden of the Outpouring, which approaches 144 days on August 23rd, have helped to create an atmosphere of fatigue and stress that has exacerbated existing issues in their relationship."

In spite of the controversy and personal difficulties, Fresh Fire Ministries has reported that this is the first revival in history to be broadcast live into literally millions of homes and churches across all five continents and into more than 200 countries. The "Outpourings," as they have come to be called, are now continuing in many cities worldwide. The revivals began in the spring and are scheduled to continue until August 23.

"These 'Outpourings' in Lakeland reached a peak attendance of 10,000 during the tent meetings, and they are currently averaging about 600 to 700 attendees each evening," said Bruce Merz, Fresh Fire Ministries' assistant to the media director.

Merz also said that the ministry has received as many as 6 million hits per month on its Web site. They have also been equally overwhelmed with phone calls and emails at their office based in Abbotsford, B.C.

While the events are free for attendees, Fresh Fire Ministries reported that the average daily cost to put on the revival at the tent was $35,000 per day, not including television and broadcast costs, which are paid for by GodTV. An offering is taken at each service.

Additionally, there is another revival slated to take place in Uganda, Africa later this month.

"We are still fully committed to our crusade in Uganda, Africa later this month, and though Todd will not be in attendance, our Fresh Fire Team and Associate Ministries will lead a team of almost one hundred people from around the world to share the love of God, the power of the gospel, and humanitarian aid with the people of Uganda," continued the Board of Directors in its message.

Bentley, a Canadian who has been labeled as "a new faith healer," has become known for his claims of supernatural powers, violent healing techniques and angelic visions. He also suggests that he has raised people from the dead.

In one YouTube video, Bentley can be seen kneeing in the stomach a man with stage 4-colon cancer. As the man bends over in extreme pain from the blow, Bentley said, "I had to be obedient to the Lord, sir, but I believe that colon cancer is coming right out of your body now."

While the revivals seem to be impacting millions, some evangelical leaders are opposed, and even pastors from Lakeland area churches are warning that Todd Bentley "is doing more harm than good."

Senior Pastor Shane Skelton, Calvary Baptist Church in Lakeland, Florida said he briefly attended one of the nightly meetings. He has also been following the nightly broadcasts so that he can know what's going on in the community and with his church members.

When describing his experience, Skelton said, "I am going to have to come down on the side of the negative, I am against what he [Bentley] is doing for several reasons."

"I believe it threw more light to emotion than it did to doctrinal standards," Skelton said. "I looked at it very closely because I actually had some folks who went to it, and I had to deal with them going up on the stage, and they didn't get healed for whatever reason, and it created a lot of stir and controversy within my church.

"One of the biggest issues I have with it, is that it makes God a means to an end and not the end. People come from all around the world to receive healing, and they come from all around the world to get what they wanted, which was healing or a better life, and God became a means to that end, instead of God being the end. God should be the end of everything, whether we have good health, a good marriage and so on," said Skelton. "God is not a link in the chain to get you what you want. He's not a lucky rabbit's foot. He's not magic genie in a lamp. He is God, whether we have good health or not."

Skelton also expressed concern that "revivals" were not actually calling people back to God. "[Bentley] lot of the things I watched on the broadcasts were nothing more than pumping up people's emotions," he said. "There is no revival to it. Revival is returning to the holiness of God. I don't see any bars being shut down in Lakeland. I don't see any fruit from it as far as the town turning back to holiness and righteousness."

Hank Hanegraaff, author and host of the popular "Bible Answer Man" radio program, said what's going on in Lakeland is a "counterfeit revival."

"I think what you have in genuine revival, is you have powerful, expositional preaching, and the preaching emphasizes an esteem for Christ, an eternal perspective, and a focus on essential Christian doctrine, as opposed to what you find in 'counterfeit revivals,' with its excesses, airs, and extremes, which are I suppose personified in Todd Bentley, as much as anyone I've seen in recent history."

Hanegraaff said he believes that the term "revival" is often misused in our culture. He believes people need to get back to basics, into the Word of God, and get the Word of God into them.

"I think we have a misplaced sense of revival, in that we are looking for revival in all the wrong places," Hanegraaff said.

Martha Hollowell, a graduate from Fuller Seminary, who holds a degree in Cross Cultural Studies and serves as the prayer coordinator for her church Messiah Christian Church in Richmond, Va., attended several evenings of the Florida Outpouring revivals at the beginning of July with a group from her church. Although she said she did not go expecting physical healing, she said her experience was a positive one. On July 4, she saw Bentley speak.

"Todd Bentley was there only one of the four nights that I was there," said Hollowell. "That service was a slightly different evening. They had planned on having a baptismal service, and 3,000 people lined up to be baptized. It was amazing. The focus that night really was, not so much on physical healing, but on healing from drug and alcohol abuse."

She described the Florida Outpouring as "a revival for the church." She said a huge number of people who are attending are Christians, not non-believers.

"I know I've been praying for a revival for a long time. What I mean by revival is seeing people coming to Christ in large quantities. I've studied about revivals, so I understand that is not all there is, and that a lot of times, revival was first about reviving the church so the church can then go out and win people," Hollowell said.

"What I went for, and what I feel like I came back with, was a renewed sense of purpose and an excitement that God is going to move, not only in the church, but in reviving the church so that we can reach out to society," Hollowell said.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 14, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 16, 2008, 11:48:45 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 14, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Some Evangelicals, Catholics Applaud DNC's Abortion Language Change
    * Death Threats, Damages Hit Churches in Ecuador
    * Iran: Christian Couple Dies after Police Raid
    * Chicago Archdiocese Agrees to $12.7M Settlement



Some Evangelicals, Catholics Applaud DNC's Abortion Language Change

Religion News Service reports that progressive evangelical and Catholic leaders voiced their support for the Democratic Party's platform on abortion, citing new provisions that emphasize measures intended to reduce the number of abortions in the U.S. such as women's health care, adoption services and income support programs. A draft 51-page platform was approved Sunday, and will be voted on at the Democratic National Convention, Aug. 25-28. While the platform again affirms a woman's right to choose, it differs from previous years by offering more tangible support for addressing the issue of abortion. The platform calls for programs to "reduce the number of unintended pregnancies" and stresses the need for income support and adoption programs. "We worked hard to give language that gives evangelicals and Roman Catholics the sense that they can participate in the Democratic Party without compromising their convictions," said the Rev. Tony Campolo, who served on the party's platform committee. Rev. Jim Wallis, head of the evangelical group Sojourners, Orlando megachurch pastor Joel Hunter, and several other pastors praised the changes.

Death Threats, Damages Hit Churches in Ecuador

Catholic authorities report death threats and several acts of vandalism of church property in response to church opposition to several articles in Ecuador's proposed new constitution, according to Compass Direct News. In the port city of Guayaquil, a group of people were reported to have entered a chapel, grabbed the Eucharistic host, tore, spat and stepped on it. That vandalism was reportedly the third that has occurred in recent weeks as frustrated supporters of ruling socialist party Alianza PAIS lash out at the Catholic Church for criticizing their newly-proposed constitution. Similar desecrations were reported in recent weeks at two other churches. Archbishop Antonio Arregui Yarza of Guayaquil has received numerous death threats, as has pro-life leader Amparo Medina, who recently received a dead rat inside of a shoebox with a note attached that read "death to pro-lifers." In addition, the president of the Never Impunity Movement (Movimiento Impunidad Jamás) has called for the archbishop's arrest and "preventative imprisonment" because of the church's opposition to the constitution.

Iran: Christian Couple Dies after Police Raid

ASSIST New Service reports that a church leader and his wife have died as a result of injuries sustained from a police raid on their home in Isfehan, Iran. Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), citing the Farsi Christian News Network (FCNN), says Abbas Amiri, 62, died in hospital on July 30, 2008, in Isfehan, Iran.  His wife died of similar injuries on Aug. 3. Amiri was one of a number of church members who was physically assaulted by police officers who raided his home in Malek Shahr on July 27 during a Sunday gathering of the house church. The human rights group says 2008 has seen a serious increase in the number of detentions and physical mistreatment of non-Muslims in Iran. Two church leaders who were arrested in Shiraz in May 2008 are still being kept in poor conditions, with no charges brought against them.

Chicago archdiocese agrees to $12.7 million settlement

Reuters reports that the Chicago diocese of the Catholic church has reached a $12.7 million settlement with 16 sexual abuse victims. "My hope is that these settlements will help the survivors and their families begin to heal and move forward," Chicago Cardinal Francis George, head of the second-largest U.S. archdiocese, said in a statement. "I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and to the whole Catholic community. We must continue to do everything in our power to ensure the safety of the children in our care," said George, who became the highest-ranking church official to give a legal deposition when he was questioned in this case. U.S. archdioceses have paid almost $2 billion in settlements pertaining to sexual abuse by priests and potential knowledge of dioceses.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 16, 2008, 11:50:43 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 15, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Baptist World Aid Support Relief Programs in Georgia Conflict
    * Jury Begins Deliberating in Osteen Lawsuit
    * Nepal: Terrorists Target Indian Priests
    * Episcopal Priests Propose Aligning with Catholic Church

 

Baptist World Aid Support Relief Programs in Georgia Conflict

ASSIST News Service reports that the conflict between Georgia and Russia continues without a cease-fire, Baptist leaders are working toward aid and support. Malkhaz Songulashvili, the Presiding Bishop of the Evangelical Baptist Church of Georgia, in an email report to Ethics Daily, said "We pray that the conflict is peacefully resolved and opposing sides reconciled, mutual forgiveness and acceptance exercised. We mourn the deaths ... from both sides." Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid (BWAid) said: "We condemn this wanton taking of human life, and mourn the death and suffering of all the peoples of this region." Baptist World Aid (BWAid), the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, is responding to cries for help from those caught up in the recent conflict between Russia and Georgia. An initial grant of $10,000 has been made available to Georgian Baptists so that they can help those in need. Donations to assist Georgian Baptists in their relief programs can be made to Baptist World Aid (www.bwanet.org/bwaid).

Jury Begins Deliberating in Osteen Lawsuit

Although Victoria Osteen, wife of megachurch pastor Joel Osteen, allegedly physically and verbally abused a flight attendant in 2005, fellow passengers say the exchange never went that far, Fox News reports. As deliberations began yesterday, Continental Airlines flight attendant Sharon Brown claims Osteen became violent when a spill on her first-class seat armrest was not cleaned up quickly enough, and assaulted Brown when she blocked Osteen's way to the cockpit. Brown claims physical and mental pain from the attack, and is asking $405,000 in damages. Osteen denied ever touching Brown or trying to get into the cockpit, and her attorney maintains the incident is highly exaggerated. The Osteens paid a $3,000 fine the Federal Aviation Administration levied against Victoria Osteen for interfering with a crew member but testified they did so to put the incident behind them.

Nepal: Terrorists Target Indian Priests

Compass Direct News reports that Father John Prakash Moyalan, the 62-year-old Catholic priest killed on July 1 by an underground militant Hindu organization in Nepal, might have been alive today -- had he not been an Indian, according to the Himalayan republic's Christian community. With the law-and-order situation in the new republic plummeting since elections in April and relations with southern neighbor India becoming increasingly acrimonious, Christian leaders here said Indian Catholics in Nepal are facing a greater threat from Hindu extremists. The extremists blame New Delhi for the May 28 ouster of Nepal's Hindu king Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev and the transformation of the world's only Hindu kingdom into a secular state. Father John Vianney, head of the Pastoral Animation Centre (PAC) in Lalitpur, said PAC received five to six calls after the gunning down of Fr. Moyalan in Sirsiya town in south Nepal, the most volatile region in the country since the abolition of the monarchy. "Fr. Prakash's attackers took away his cellular phone," Fr. Vianney told Compass. "Then they began calling the numbers stored in it, demanding money."

Episcopal Priests Propose Aligning with Catholic Church

Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that four Episcopal priests in Fort Worth have had enough with the Episcopal church in the United States - and say the majority of clergy in their diocese are ready to realign with the Catholic church, citing similar positions on opposing same-sex marriage and ordination of women and homosexuals. The four priests spoke privately with Bishop Kevil Vann of the Forth Worth Catholic Diocese in June, meeting with the permission and support of Forth Worth Episcopal Diocese Bishop Jack Iker. Iker, however, maintains they do not speak on behalf of him or the entire diocese and "there is no proposal under consideration, either publicly or privately, for the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth to become part of the Roman Catholic Church," he said in the statement.
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Title: Slavic Churches Extend Help to Georgian Refugees
Post by: nChrist on August 18, 2008, 02:19:20 PM
Slavic Churches Extend Help to Georgian Refugees
Michael Ireland


August 18, 2008

LOVES PARK, ILLINOIS (ANS) -- Refugee families from South Ossetia have flooded north across the Russian border into the cities of North Ossetia, and into the southern Russian regions of Kabardino-Balkaria, Rostov, Stavropol, and Krasnodar.

The movement of families follows the new and bloody armed conflict between Russia, the disputed territory of South Ossetia, and the former Soviet republic of Georgia.

The fighting began last Thursday in South Ossetia, which is located on Russia's southern border in the Caucasus Mountains region of the former Soviet Union.

The hostilities between the Georgian and Russian armies have already resulted in several thousand civilians being killed and an estimated 100,000 people having lost their homes.

In all of these regions, the Loves Park, Illinois-based Slavic Gospel Association (SGA) sponsors church planters and partner Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (UECB) churches, including Pastors Sergei and Taimuraz Totiev of Beslan.

According to SGA president Dr. Robert Provost, the city of Beslan is no stranger to bloodshed.

He said: "Beslan was the scene of the horrific 2004 attack on a school where terrorists slaughtered 330 children and adults. Both Totiev families lost several children in the attacks. In the months and years that followed, Pastor Sergei led the Beslan Baptist Church's wonderfully fruitful ministry to the entire grieving city."

Provost added: "Concerning the current crisis, Pastor Sergei told us yesterday that 'wounded survivors and homeless refugees are everywhere. It is really difficult to comfort people whose relatives were killed in front of them'

"All of the UECB churches in North Ossetia are sending people to visit the suffering injured in the area hospitals. They are trying to help the refugees with food and clothing. And you can be sure that they are seizing every opportunity to share the Gospel with them."

According to SGA, the churches say that the refugees are coming in with heartbreaking stories.

A media advisory says: "They tell of bombings, people crushed by tanks, and others being burned alive. Many of them are from the city of Tskhinvali, where reportedly not one house is still standing. And some of these refugees from Tskhinvali are Baptist believers.

"Temporary shelters have been set up in government buildings, but many of the families of Beslan -- people who are well acquainted with grief -- have taken refugees into their homes. But they cannot provide all of the food and necessities that the displaced people need. A great deal of help is needed, especially for the purchase of food and everything for children, baby foods, and hygiene items."

SGA says the US Government has pledged to provide humanitarian relief to the war victims in Georgia. And the Russian Christians are accepting responsibility for humanitarian relief to the South Ossetian war victims who have fled to southern Russia.

SGA is an interdenominational mission, which has been working in the former Soviet Union since 1934 and has served churches in Russia through pastor and lay leader training, sponsorship of national church planters and provision of Christian literature. SGA represents the Russian UECB and is a sponsor of the Eurasian Federation of Evangelical Christians-Baptists.

SGA is asking for prayer in this crisis situation, in addition to financial contributions to help the churches with their relief efforts.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 18, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 18, 2008, 02:21:16 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 18, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Malaysia: Court Denies Woman's Appeal to Leave Islam
    * Presidential Race Tightens As Faith Voters Rethink
    * Sudan: Relative Peace Allows Outdoor Worship Event
    * Settlement Brings End to 9-Year 'Left Behind' Dispute

 

Malaysia: Court Denies Woman's Appeal to Leave Islam

Compass Direct News reports that a civil court on Aug. 5 denied a woman's appeal to renounce Islam in favor of Christianity, highlighting the jurisdictional disputes in Malaysia's dual legal system. Lim Yoke Khoon had filed a suit in her original ethnic Chinese name to renounce Islam and embrace Christianity. In a 2-1 majority ruling, the Shah Alam Court of Appeal denied her case on a technicality: According to judges Tengku Baharudin Shah Tengku Mahmud and Sulong Mat Jeraie, Lim had ceased to exist under her original name when she converted to Islam and assumed a new name, Noorashikin Lim binti Abdullah. The 35-year-old Lim is reportedly expected to appeal to the country's top civil court. A public forum to discuss such jurisdictional disputes, in this case the dual court system's effect on families of people who convert to Islam, was scheduled for Saturday (Aug. 9), but Muslim protestors succeeded in halting it after only one hour.

Presidential Race Tightens As Faith Voters Rethink

A new study by The Barna Group shows that while faith voters are waffling more on their candidate decisions, but Barack Obama's slight fall in popularity hasn't translated decided voters for John McCain. According to the nationwide study, Obama still leads 43 percent to McCain's 34 percent, and is still favored by 18 of 19 faith communities surveyed. In June, Obama led by 50 percent to McCain's 35 percent. The survey noted that McCain still holds the evangelical community 61 percent to 17 percent, but that level of support is significantly down from June, when he was favored with 78 percent. "While some Christian voters seem to be questioning their early support for Obama, the McCain candidacy does not seem to be gaining momentum among evangelicals," the report said.

Sudan: Relative Peace Allows Outdoor Worship Event

A break in fighting - perhaps even a tentative peace - has come to southern Sudan, allowing planning for an large, outdoor evangelistic meeting for the first time in years, according to Mission News Network. American evangelist Sammy Tippit will join the event as a keynote speaker. Tippit believes the people are Southern Sudan are uniquely ready for the Gospel. "When I go into an area that's been torn apart, the people are ready; they're open; they're hungry for the good news of the Gospel. So it'll be interesting to see," he said. According to Tippit, many of his initial contact were refugees living in northern Sudan who have now been able to return home.

Settlement Brings End to 9-Year 'Left Behind' Dispute

The Christian Post reports that a legal dispute between the "Left Behind" film series and the series authors has finally ended after almost a decade. Co-author Timothy LaHaye sued filmmaker Cloud Ten Pictures and co-producer Namesake Entertainment after the first three films' video release in 2000, claiming the producers skimped on film quality and breached contract. The authors were also frustrated by the film's video release and distribution through mainly Christian venues, saying they hoped to reach a wider audience. "We are thrilled to finally have this behind us," announced André van Heerden, CEO of Cloud Ten Pictures Inc. "While we received repeated judgments from the Courts that validated our rights, we were unable until now to finally put this lawsuit behind us."
________________________________


Title: Chinese Airport Officials Seize 300 Bibles from Christians
Post by: nChrist on August 19, 2008, 04:08:33 PM
Chinese Airport Officials Seize 300 Bibles from Christians
Jeremy Reynalds


August 19, 2008

KUNMING, YUNNAN PROVINCE, CHINA (ANS) -- A group of American Christians who had more than 300 Chinese Bibles confiscated by officials when they arrived in China is refusing to leave Kunming International Airport until they get the books back.

According to a news release from the China Aid Association (CAA), the four American Christians arrived at 3 p.m. Beijing Time from the U.S. via Thailand. Each carried about 75 to 80 study Bibles for Chinese pastors.

The names of the four are Pat Klein, 46, from Wyoming, Forrest Higginbotham, 78, from Indiana), Higginbotham's grandson Stephen Constantinou, 15, from New Jersey and Steve Nichols, 60, from New York.

According to Klein, each of them was fined for 400 U.S. dollars for the overweight luggage with the Bibles. The Chinese customs officials told the four Americans that their all of their Bibles were confiscated as "illegal religious literature."

"The Chinese leaders keep telling the world the Chinese people have religious freedom. To even prevent them from receiving Bibles certainly contradicts that claim," the news release said Klein told CAA President Bob Fu in a telephone interview.

Klein's Sheridan, Wyoming-based group Vision Beyond Borders distributes Bibles and Christian teaching materials around the world.

Chinese authority allows limited numbers of Bibles, and they are only available at officially sanctioned churches. The sale of Bibles is forbidden in public bookstores.

"I appeal to the Chinese government to release those confiscated Bibles to the four individuals who deeply care about the Chinese believers," Fu said in the news release. "I urge the international Christian community to pray for the four courageous fellow brothers for their safety in China."
_______________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 19, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 19, 2008, 04:10:20 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 19, 2008

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Church-Hosted Forum Gets Personal, Practical
    * Relief Orgs Make Their Way to Georgian Refugees
    * Nigeria: Islamist Group Attacking Christians in Kwara State
    * Evangelicals Warn McCain on Running Mate Choice

 

Church-Hosted Forum Gets Personal, Practical

Megachurch pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church helped Americans compare "apples-to-apples" in a Civil Forum with presidential hopefuls Barack Obama and John McCain on Saturday, the Christian Post reported. Warren asked the two candidates the same set of questions on stewardship, leadership, worldview and America's role in the world. "Now, we believe in the separation of church and state," Warren said in his introduction before heading into the first round of questions with Obama, "but we do not believe in the separation of faith and politics because faith is just a world view and everybody has some kind of world view." Questions were contributed by pastors, church leaders and issue experts, and included the topics of abortion and same-sex marriage.

Relief Orgs Make Their Way to Georgian Refugees

Mission News Network reports that at least 100,000 people have fled the South Ossetia conflict north into Russia and south into Georgia proper. Relief organization World Vision is in both refugee destinations, providing medical relief, shelter and food to those who have fled. World Vision's Rachel Wolfe also noted that many families have been separated, creating a huge child-care need. In a press release, Medical Teams International also announced preparations to airship more than $100,000 in medical supplies to families in the conflict, partnering with Project Hope and the U.S. State Department. Southern Baptists are also organizing an assessment team to evaluate the situation after fighting stop, Baptist Press reports. "The humanitarian needs here are growing exponentially, faster than the combined agencies can keep up," warned David Womble, national director of World Vision in Georgia told MNN. "We continue to look at the tip of the iceberg."

Nigeria: Islamist Group Attacking Christians in Kwara State

Blaming the death of their leader on Christian prayers, an Islamist group that launched a hate campaign in response to an evangelistic event in 2004 is reportedly attacking Christians in this Kwara state capital with renewed virulence, area Christians told Compass Direct News. At least three Christians have died and several others have been injured in attacks with machetes and other weapons since June, clergymen said. They said the attacks began after the May death from car crash injuries of Dr. Ali Olukade, head of a local group of Islamists called Tibliq, possibly patterned after the worldwide Tablighi Jamaat missionary movement. The Kwara chapter of CAN has received 10 reports of Christians attacked by the Muslim extremists in the past two months, Rev. Cornelius Fawenu, secretary of the Kwara chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) said, adding that he believes unreported assaults on Christians average about four daily.

Evangelicals Warn McCain on Running Mate Choice

Conservative evangelical leaders warned Friday that Sen. John McCain risks losing the election if he chooses a running mate who supports abortion rights, according to Religion News Service. A panel of prominent anti-abortion advocates, including former presidential candidate Gov. Mike Huckabee, urged voters to make an abortion and other "life issues" a priority this November. "I believe that if Sen. McCain chooses a pro-abortion (running mate), he will give the election to Sen. Obama," said Bishop Harry Jackson, chairman of the Maryland-based High Impact Leadership Coalition. "It would be tantamount to political suicide." Earlier this week, McCain told The Weekly Standard that he would consider selecting a running mate, such as former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge or Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., who supports abortion rights.
____________________________________________


Title: Megachurch Reflects on Presidential Event
Post by: nChrist on August 21, 2008, 12:33:57 PM
Megachurch Reflects on Presidential Event
David Finnigan


LAKE FOREST, Calif. -- A day after hosting presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain, megachurch pastor Rick Warren said Sunday (Aug. 17) that a politician's soul is as important as his solutions.

"Don't just look at issues, look at character," Warren sermonized here at his Saddleback Church. "Issues are important but you also have to look at character."

The megachurch pastor made only a passing reference to his "buddies named Barack and John," but he made clear what he looks for in a leader.

"Our leaders used to be known for the integrity ... `Honest Abe' or George Washington," Warren said. "Does the private life of a leader matter? Absolutely it matters. Because what you do affects everybody else, even in your private life."

On Saturday night Warren and Saddleback hosted a "civil forum" with Republican presumptive nominee McCain and Obama, the presumed Democratic nominee. It was this presidential campaign's third faith-focused forum

-- the first two included only Democratic nominees -- highlighting the importance religion has assumed in recent elections.

Warren, founder of the 20,000-member Saddleback Church and author of the best-selling "The Purpose Driven Life," calls himself a friend of both candidates.

That didn't stop Warren from grilling Obama and McCain on hot-button issues such as abortion and gay marriage, though.

Asked about abortion, McCain said human rights start at the moment of conception.

Obama emphasized his abortion-rights position but also discussed the complexity of the debate and said his party is committed to reducing abortion through anti-poverty initiatives.

Saddleback congregant Robert MacHale, a 39-year-old software engineer, said he was supporting Obama, but that neither candidate may be able to resolve such difficult issues.

"I guess the better question to ask is will either John McCain or Obama do anything about abortion," he said.

Evangelical pastor Rev. Jim Gilbreth of Riverside, Calif., said the Saddleback forum was unlikely to dampen his McCain support. "On several key issues I am in complete disagreement with Sen. Obama," Gilbreth said. "But I am very interested in what he has to say."

Both candidates discussed their personal religious views, with Obama saying, "I believe that Jesus Christ died for my sins and that I am redeemed through him."

McCain said his faith "means I'm saved and forgiven." He also told a story about celebrating Christmas with a prison guard when he was held as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

When Warren asked Obama if evil existed, the Illinois senator said it did, adding that people should have "some humility in how we approach the issue of confronting evil ... you know a lot of evil has been perpetrated based on the claim that we were trying to confront evil."

In response to a question about wealth, McCain said, "Some of the richest people I've ever known are the most unhappy ... I think that rich is defined by, should be defined by a home, a good job and education and the ability to hand our children a more prosperous and safer world than the one that we inherited."

Hundreds of audience members waited in lines Saturday snaking up Saddleback's hilly suburban compound. On a nearby boulevard about 1,000 demonstrators from anti-immigration, anti-war, anti-abortion movements protested both candidates.

Warren did not endorse either candidate but he did mention the kind of presidential candidate he won't support.

"I could not vote for an atheist ... because an atheist says, `I don't need God.' And nobody is self-sufficient (enough) to be a president by themselves."
____________________________________


Title: Christian Persecution Surged during Musharraf's Rule?
Post by: nChrist on August 21, 2008, 12:37:48 PM
Christian Persecution Surged during Musharraf's Rule?
Sheraz Khurram Khan


August 21, 2008

PAKISTAN (ANS) -- Joseph Francis, the National Director of Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) has said that Christian persecution and discrimination with minorities surged during former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's rule.

Francis said that the Christians of Pakistan suffered enormous injustices, discrimination and persecution during Musharraf's rule.

"Christians were not immune from persecution and raw treatment during the tenure of Presidents that preceded Musharraf, but the scale of Christian persecution was worst during Musharraf's rule," said Francis.

Francis put forward statistics of Christian persecution during Musharraf's rule. He claimed that over 55 churches were attacked and maintained that 58 Christians were murdered while 275 were wounded. Pointing to the misuse of Pakistan's controversial blasphemy laws, Francis said that 212 blasphemy cases were registered from October 12, 1999 to August 18, 2008.

He said that some 10 blasphemy-accused had been killed extra-judicially during Musharraf's stint as President. Among the victims of blasphemy-related extra-judicial killings, he said four of them were Christians while the rest were Muslims.

Musharraf's popularity plummeted when he sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry on March 9, 2007. The President's move of seizing emergency powers on November 3, 2007 further dented his popularity. The President made frequent promises on shedding his military uniform but he did not deliver on them. He took off his military uniform after coming under intense international pressure. The victory of Musharraf's opponents on February 18, 2008 elections proved to be the last nail in Musharraf's coffin.

Calls for Musharraf to quit from president's office became strident two weeks ago, culminating at the decision of the ruling coalition to impeach president Musharraf if he did not resign. Musharraf resigned from the office of President on August 18 to avoid impeachment turmoil.

Mr. Joseph Francis said that Pervez Musharraf should have resigned way earlier than August 18 when he had started becoming unpopular with people of Pakistan.

Disputing former Pakistani President Musharraf's claim that he had empowered Pakistani minorities, Francis said minorities on the contrary were discriminated against during President Musharraf's rule.

He criticized Musharraf for introducing a host of constitutional amendments to prolong his rule. How the former President could justify his claim of empowering minorities when he did not even institute a single constitutional amendment to bring minorities at par with majority, he argued.

"Our Personal Laws continue to be violated," he said. "No amendment has been made in Minorities Personal Laws including Marriage Act, Divorce Act and Inheritance Act during former the President's rule."

He also slammed Pervez Musharraf for not heeding to Pakistan National Christian Party's demand of amending article 41 of the constitution of Pakistan which he stated says, "A person shall not be qualified for election as President unless he is a Muslim of not less than forty-five years of age and is qualified to be elected as member of the National Assembly."

Francis has submitted a written petition to the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He says that he expects a hearing on the petition after the "restoration of judges."

Francis said that the former Pakistan President Musharraf announced that there would be 33 percent of the seats for women before 2002 elections. "However, no seats were reserved for minority women," he lamented.

He said that the minorities' councilors were worst hit under Musharraf's Devolution Plan. "They (the minority councilors) neither have power nor any funds," he said. "They are at the mercy of their respective Nazims (Mayors)."

Francis said that if Musharraf ever wanted to empower minorities he could have enacted a law under which each political party of the country was supposed to award at least 10 percent direct party tickets to minorities.

"Reserved seats for minorities have not increased since the creation of Pakistan and Musharraf's rule was no exception," he said.

Francis was of the view that the former President should not be credited for replacing Separate Electorate System for minorities with a Joint Electorate System.

"Musharraf introduced the Joint Electorate System for minorities after knuckling under international pressure," he alleged.

Following Musharraf's resignation on August 18, Chairman Senate Muhammad Mian Soomro has taken over as acting President. According to Pakistan's constitution the new President has to be elected within 30 days.

Asked which party's presidential candidate should become next President, Francis said, "Whoever becomes next President, he is likely to remain indifferent toward Pakistani Christians."

Francis dubbed the next 30 days "very critical" for Pakistan. Asked if Islamic fundamentalism would surge in Pakistan after Musharraf's disappearance from the political scene, Francis feared that Islamists would become "more detrimental" for the country in the absence of President Musharraf.

He dispelled the impression that Pervez Musharraf had employed steps to ameliorate the lot of Pakistani minorities. Musharraf confronted radical Islamists because this is what the U.S had expected of him. "He had thrown his lot with the U.S President George W. Bush in the wake of 9/11 terrorist attacks in USA," said Francis. "Musharraf's role in war on terror did not improve minorities' situation."

Bishop Samuel Azariah of the Diocese of Riwand, Church of Pakistan, said that Musharraf made the right decision to resign. "He had lost popularity with masses. There was a general opinion in the country that he should go," said Bishop Samuel.

Asked how he rated Musharraf as President vis-à-vis Pakistani Christians, the Bishop said, "He did a few things which benefited Pakistani Christians."

He hailed Musharraf for introducing Joint Electorate System for Pakistani minorities.

Asked if he backed constitutional amendment in article 41 of the constitution of Pakistan, so that every Pakistani could run for presidential elections, the Bishop said there was no reason why he would not back such a proposal.

"Every Pakistani irrespective of his faith should be entitled to run in the Presidential elections. This issue is not religious, but that of equality for all," he said.

In reply to a question, he said that next 30 days would see "tough negotiations between coalition partners." The Bishop stated that it would not be easy for them to forge consensus on a Presidential candidate.

"The political parties' leadership has become mature over the years. I hope they can agree on a consensus candidate," said Bishop Samuel.

Asked how Musharraf's resignation would affect Islamic militancy, he said that Musharraf's departure would make "no difference to Islamic fundamentalism."

When asked if he was in favor of a repeal of article 58-2 (b) that empowers Pakistani president to dissolve assemblies, the Bishop said that the article was meant to put check and balance in place, but the article had been "frequently abused and misused" by some of Musharraf's predecessors.

A renowned Christian professor, Anjum James Paul, who also happens to be chairman of Pakistan Minorities Teachers' Association while talking to ANS said he and his like-minded friends had agitated when Pervez Musharraf had taken over in a bloodless military coup on October 12, 1999. He said they had protested since Musharraf had violated constitution of Pakistan by seizing power and his action was undemocratic and unconstitutional.

He appreciated Musharraf for giving Pakistani minorities the Joint Electorate System. Reciprocating a question, Anjum Paul said he would like next President to come from the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

"It is in the spirit of democracy that the next President comes from the PPP," he said.

Professor Anjum also called for repeal of article 58 2 (b) of the constitution of Pakistan.
______________________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 21, 2008, 12:40:09 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 20, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Many Americans Put Trust in Miracles over Medicine
    * Churches Pay Average Senior Pastor $80,000 a Year
    * Indonesia: Muslim Mob Storms Church, Call for Ban
    * UN Demands Russia Withdraw from Georgia

 

Many Americans Put Trust in Miracles over Medicine

The Associated Press reports that a new survey shows that more than half of American adults believe in divine intervention at the hospital, and doctors need to be sensitive to those expecting miracles. Fifty-seven percent said divine intervention could save even when medical treatment appears hopeless, and almost 20 percent of doctors and medical workers surveyed agreed. Almost 75 percent said patients have a right to such treatment. One thousand adults were surveyed on end-of-life medical care, along with 774 doctors and other medical workers. The study noted that doctors shouldn't belittle this belief. "Sensitivity to this belief will promote development of a trusting relationship" with patients and their families, according to researchers.

Churches Pay Average Senior Pastor $80,000 a Year

According to ChristianNewsWire, the average senior pastor earns $81,113 a year in pay and benefits, according to an annual survey by the Your Church Media Group. The survey also showed benefits significantly increased with education levels in all church staffing position; those with a doctorate earn $14,000-$24,000 more per year than those who hold only a Bachelor's degree, and almost $30,000 more than those without any post-secondary education. Location and setting of a church also factored into pastor's pay, as suburban senior pastors average 50 percent more earnings than those in more rural settings.

Indonesia: Muslim Mob Storms Church, Call for Ban

Compass Direct News reports that on Sunday (August 17) a Muslim mob stormed a church service in Cipayung, East Jakarta, forcing Christians to flee and then erecting banners in the street declaring a ban on "churches and religious services." As about 20 church members were celebrating the nation's Independence Day at the service, the angry assailants arrived at the Pentecostal Church of Indonesia in Pondok Rangon village, Cipayung, at 9:30 a.m. shouting "Allahu Akbar!" or "God is greater!" Some in the mob were neighbors, but the majority were not local residents, according to pastor Chris Ambessa. Local officials made no effort to intervene or prohibit the illegal banners. Ambessa has been in the middle of a dispute over his house church. Previously Cipayung officials had ordered him to dismantle the second floor of his home, and on July 13 it ordered him to cease religious activity for an indefinite period following neighborhood protests against his house church. Neighbors had demanded that Ambessa completely demolish the building.

UN Demands Russia Withdraw from Georgia

Although the UN Security Council has drafted a resolution demanding cease-fire, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman says there appears to be no significant changes to Russia's military occupation of Georgia despite promises to mostly withdraw, according to Fox News. The conflict began Aug. 7 when Georgia launched heavy artillery against rogue province South Ossetia. Russian troops drove back Georgian forces from the ethnically Russian province. Meanwhile, Bible Mission International's Paul Hagelgans told Mission News Network that people need to ignore the spin from both countries and focus on the humanitarian crisis. "We care about who's right and who's wrong. We only care about the more than 35,000 people," he said.

___________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 21, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 21, 2008, 12:44:22 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 21, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Christian Group Leaves Chinese Airport After Standoff
    * Presbyterian Clergy Will Return to Court over Lesbian Wedding
    * India: Hindu Extremists Suspected in Murder of Priest
    * Women Theologians Urge Churches to Challenge Power Structures

 


Christian Group Leaves Chinese Airport After Standoff

ASSIST News Service reports that members of an American Christian group have ended a standoff with Chinese customs officials over Bibles they were trying to bring into the country. Voice of America (VOA) reported Vision Beyond Borders leader Pat Klein said Monday that he and three others spent 26 hours at the Kunming airport in the southwestern province Yunnan, waiting for officials to return more than 300 confiscated Bibles in Chinese. A representative for the group, Dyann Romeijn, told VOA the four decided to leave the airport Monday after it became clear Chinese officials would not return the books. She said Klein became concerned he and his traveling companions - including a 78-year-old man and 15-year-old boy - would be forcibly removed from the airport. But U.S embassy officials later told them that doing so violated a Chinese law prohibiting the import of religious materials other than for personal use.

Presbyterian Clergy Will Return to Court over Lesbian Wedding

Religion News Service reports that a Presbyterian minister who officiated at a lesbian wedding in 2005 is heading for church court again, two years after charges against her were dismissed on a technicality. The Rev. Janet Edwards of Pittsburgh will again face possible expulsion if convicted by the Permanent Judicial Commission of the Pittsburgh Presbytery. Edwards will appear before the commission Oct. 1, to answer charges that she defied her ordination vows and Presbyterian Church (USA) rules by officiating at the Pittsburgh wedding of a lesbian couple in 2005. "I am trying really hard to speak clearly about how what I did reflects Jesus' love and justice, and so I hope the permanent judicial council acquits me," Edwards said. The PCUSA allows ministers to perform same-sex unions as long as they are not equated with traditional marriage.

India: Hindu Extremists Suspected in Murder of Priest

Compass Direct News reports that Christian leaders in Andhra Pradesh suspect the grisly murder of a Catholic priest was the work of Hindu extremists and that police have prematurely ruled out that possibility. The battered body of Father Thomas Pandipally, 38, was found lying on a roadside in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh early on August 17. Rev. Father Alex Thannippara, a provincial superior of Pandipally's order, pointed out that on January 16 a mob of 500 people led by Hindu extremists prevented the Hyderabad archbishop from blessing the new building of an HIV/AIDS care center, and two years ago the school where the slain priest worked was also targeted. Andhra Pradesh has witnessed a strange trend of brutal and mysterious murders of Christian workers in the past eight years.

Women Theologians Urge Churches to Challenge Power Structures

A new international group has called for churches to be transforming agents against power structures that fail to respect human dignity, the Christian Post reports. Female theologians participating in the Feminist Discourse on Economy, Ecology and Empire in Bangalore, India, said in a statement, "There is an urgent need to bring together differing analyses and perspectives on the systemic roots of the life-threatening socio-economic and ecological crises and to explore possibilities of articulating a clear faith stance and envisioning a future beyond empire... In particular, it is crucial to include feminist/womanist thinking in the current debates in order to fully identify the theological and ethical challenges posed by empire." The conference was hosted by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and World Council of Churches (WCC).

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Title: Seminary President Shares His Experience in Beijing
Post by: nChrist on August 22, 2008, 09:33:08 PM
Seminary President Shares His Experience in Beijing
Katherine Britton

August 22, 2008

China's communication about the Christians in its midst has left believers in other countries scratching their heads. Official statements and promises of Bibles during the Olympics contradict reports of crackdowns on house churches. Can both scenarios be true? Is the house church the only place where the Gospel is spreading?

Dr. Mark Bailey, president of Dallas Theological Seminary, shared his thoughts with Crosswalk after he returned from a visit to Kuanjie Protestant Church in Beijing with President Bush.

Dallas Seminary recently began translating its online courses into Mandarin, becoming the only U.S. seminary that enables students in China to attend lectures virtually in their own language. These courses have put Dr. Bailey in touch with Chinese students abroad and in Beijing, and exposed him to aspect of Chinese culture that most Americans hear little about: China's institutional church. The following is an excerpt from Crosswalk's interview.

CW: Tell us about the church service at Kuanjie Protestant Church with the president in Beijing. What did you see there?

Bailey: This is my second time to Beijing, and I saw a service very similar to what I'd seen before. Obviously, things are different with security having swept the place and prepared for having the president there for two weeks, just like it would be in this country. But it was a very typical worship service as I had experienced in China before.

[There was] great singing, songs like "Onward Christian Soldier," "I'll Go Where You Want Me to Go, Dear Lord," great evangelical prayers by Pastor Li (SP) at the Kuanjie church where we attended... The children's choir that was the result of the work that a couple of churches in the States had done in doing an English in character form of VBS over there last summer, and they sang "Amazing Grace." The Gospel was plainly presented in prayer, in song as well as in the preaching.

CW: That's not exactly what Americans expect from a state-sponsored church. Do you find the church in any way tainted by its association with the state?

Bailey: China is a very complicated culture... in my experience, in all the times that I have either preached or spoken there in two different trips, nobody has ever asked me to control or censor my message or asked for a previous script of what I would say. I had absolute freedom to present the gospel straightforwardly, plainly, in churches. There are pockets of freedom that are developing. That's what we've been praying for and what we've been dialoguing with the government and church leaders to accomplish there.

[In the past], we've used their translators, and we've used our own translators... and never has there been censorship or couching of the message that we have preached. That's been our experience and we know that's a measure of freedom that we hope would continue to spread.

In one sense, it's interesting that in our country you have to get approval to be a church and to have a 501c organization through the IRS here. You can only build where they'll let you in a zoning [area], you have to build according to code, and you have to have parking restrictions. We have more government involvement here than most people might recognize or might be conscious of, but that hasn't limited us so far. The United States hasn't limited our expression of worship. That's what we would pray for over there, whether that's for the registered or unregistered church.

CW: So you feel like in the registered church there isn't any restriction on expressing your religion?

Bailey: Well, I think that there probably are in some different situations. [The government's] biggest concern obviously is the cults, and making sure that money isn't taken out of the culture and controlling rebellions and rebellious movements. There's fear on both sides that goes back hundreds of years. There was the communist regime where Christianity obviously was outlawed, discouraged and prohibited, but that's changing.

But I know that there's a saying that anything you hear about going on in China is going on somewhere in China--liberty to great restriction. I'm sure it's very regional and very selective.

CW: How was your interaction with the church members as Kuanjie?

Bailey: I remembered a number of the people and they remembered me, having been there two years ago at the church where we shared a service with the President. I went to another church service and met some new folks. We had mutual acquaintances--we have students as Dallas Seminary from both the house church and the registered church. I met a number of people who attended a church that one of our students had pastored before he came to do his masters and doctoral work at the seminary. And so, it's great fellowship and great encouragement. [There are lots of] people who had studied here in the States--you know, doctors, lawyers--who are continuing to walk with the Lord. That was just great fellowship with them.

CW: Since the institutional church is so free and so open, at least in your experience, it seems funny that people would risk the persecution they face by joining a house church. Why do you think that is?

Bailey: I would stress that the openness in the registered church is probably regional, and even exceptional. I think that's beginning to change. I hope it is. I think the years of distrust because of the heavy persecution, the limitation that has existed for centuries and for generations has created distrust on both sides -- the fear of movements and rebellions, the fear of persecution on the other... Unless God miraculously heals it, I think that great divide is going to take a long time to heal. Again, the healing depends on whether genuine faith is allowed and the freedom to express that faith.

My belief, based on the life of Joseph and the life of Daniel, is that Christians should be able to exist and even serve in governments that are anything but Christian, anything but faithful. Joseph being second in command to Pharaoh, Daniel being second in command to Babylonian or Persian powers and still holding the faith -- that's the model that we ought to seek for. [That's a model of] justice, righteousness and peace for all people.

CW: It seems like there are two different faces of China -- one that is encouraging religion and the registered church, and one that is actively trying to stamp out house churches in different places. What do you make of these conflicting impressions?

Bailey: It's exactly that--it's conflicting. It's a more extreme level of where Bible studies are allowed in certain school but they're outlawed at others. You could have Christmas decorations in one place but not at another. It's a conflicted society, and it's as regional and local as the leadership. Everything happens, unfortunately, and too much of it in terms of the negative.

CW: What would you say of the religious culture in Beijing based on your own experience there?

Bailey: I think it's a testament that the Gospel is not chained. You can't stop what Christ said he would do when he said, 'I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.' We've seen the great growth of evangelical faith in China, in the house church movement, for many, many years. And again there are pockets of that that are now developing in the registered churches. Some of them are quite evangelical, some of them are obviously not. In the house church, there's evangelical movement and also cultish activity and strange behavior.

It's not that the house church alone is righteous and the registered church is evil. There's a mix of both that is really important to keep in mind. That's why our prayers our to be for genuine believers, for them to have a winsome witness, a faithfulness in spite of persecution, and to sensitively and wisely be able to share the Gospel at all levels of the culture. That would be our prayer.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 22, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 22, 2008, 09:35:03 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 22, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

 

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Tensions between Russia and Georgia Hit the Church
    * Pakistan: Custody Case Could Go to Supreme Court
    * Amish Population Nearly Doubles in 16 Years
    * Large Gift Saves Historic Mission Group from Staff Cutbacks

 


Tensions between Russia and Georgia Take Toll on the Church

Mission News Network reports that although Russia is scheduled to complete its pullout of Georgia today, residents of the conflict-ridden region fear all-out war could still erupt. Both sides have accused each other of genocide and ethnic cleansing during the week-long conflict in South Ossetia, making many apprehensive as they return home. Meanwhile, Jonathon Shibley with Global Advance says their ministry was scheduled for a conference in Georgia this week, but had to ultimately recall their team for security concerns. However, many pastors were already gathered, according to Shibley. "It could potentially be an opportunity for these pastors still to come together and just use this as a strategic time of prayer and intercession for the nation. This was going to be a multi-denominational gathering of pastors and leaders of various churches, and we hope that somehow they'll still be able to convene," he said.

Pakistan: Custody Case Could Go to Supreme Court

Compass Direct News reports that the custody battle in Pakistan over two Christian girls kidnapped and allegedly forced to convert to Islam remained inconclusive after a hearing Wednesday, with rights advocates for the family suspecting Muslim fundamentalists of pressuring the minors and a medical board. Judge Malek Saeed Ejaz of the Lahore High Court's Multan Branch set the next hearing for Sept. 9. Lawyers for the Masih family said that if the girls are not returned to their parents at the next hearing they will appeal to the Pakistani Supreme Court. Until then, Aneela and Saba Masih, 10 and 13 respectively, will remain at Multan's Dar Ul Rahman women's shelter. Rashid Rehman of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said, "They are giving them misinformation regarding their parents, saying, 'If you return to your parents, they will kill you.'"

Amish Population Nearly Doubles in 16 Years

In spite of relatively little outreach, the United States' Amish population has grown from an estimated 123,000 in 1992 to an estimated 227,000 today, Associated Press reports. This growth in population has led to an exodus extending far beyond their traditional homes as they journey to affordable farmland in seven new states since 1992. "When we think they might be dying out or merely surviving, they are actually thriving," said Elizabethtown professor Don Kraybill, a leading expert on the Amish who shared his research from an upcoming book with The Associated Press. Most of the growth comes from birth and retention rates; most Amish couples have at least five children, and more than four out of five decide to stay within the church.

Large Legacy Saves Historic Mission Group from Staff Cutbacks

Christian Post reports that an unprecedented gift of mercy will keep one of the world's oldest Protestant mission organizations afloat for a while longer. A legacy believed to be around $1.4 million will help postpone staff cuts in the Baptist Mission Society World Mission for at least a year, allowing board members to come up with more permanent solutions. The organization has suffered from three consecutive years of individual deficits more than $561,000, and announced staff cuts just one week before the gift came. "Although a legacy is a one-off gift and not a source of regular income, it allows time to consider whether new options become available over the coming year," the board members said in a statement released Wednesday.

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Title: Relief Orgs Hit the Frontlines of South Ossetia Conflict
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 10:55:29 AM
Relief Orgs Hit the Frontlines of South Ossetia Conflict
Ginny McCabe


August 25, 2008

Several organizations, including World Vision and Project HOPE have been serving on the frontlines in Russia. They are actively aiding many people who have been involved in the Georgia conflict by engaging in humanitarian efforts and providing medical supplies.

In regard to most recent efforts, as reported by Dwayne Mamo, Communications Manager, World Vision Georgia on Aug. 21, "World Vision is calling for a ceasefire to be honored by both sides and to allow humanitarian access to those who remain in need. Just recently we have been able to deliver emergency supplies to the previously inaccessible city of Gori, but South Ossetia remains too dangerous for humanitarian agencies to access."

In describing the situation there, he said, "We have seen thousands of people, especially women and children, fleeing the violence in South Ossetia and Gori, and coming here to Tbilisi. Unfortunately, a lot of families have been separated. In some cases, fathers and sons stayed behind while the mothers and young children sought safety. Now many of these people don't know where their loved ones are or if they are okay."

World Vision in Georgia is responding to the urgent needs of displaced people by distributing food in cooperation with the World Food Program. Mamo said the organization is also distributing non-food-items such as hygiene kits, as well as providing medical supplies to Tbilisi's main hospital.

"Our recent delivery to Gori consisted of 10-day food rations for 1,000 people. World Vision plans to help close to 48,000 displaced people in over 300 collection centers in the Georgian capital Tbilisi. To date, we have provided food to over 10,500 displaced persons and non-food items to over 6,000. World Vision is currently working in partnership with the UN and other agencies carrying out needs assessments in all the centers in Tbilisi, with a special focus on the needs of children," Mamo said.

World Vision teams in the Russian Federation are also helping those who have fled to North Ossetia. World Vision is providing medical supplies such as bandages, crutches, pain relievers, syringes and antibiotics to the wounded through partners. They are also planning to open Child Friendly Spaces where affected children can come and interact with other children and re-establish a sense of normalcy in their lives.

"As a Christian humanitarian agency, World Vision's goal is to respond when there is human suffering. As a result of this conflict, many people have experienced terrible things and have been left with very few resources of their own. World Vision is able to help provide some of those resources. We want to do all that we can to help these people," said Mamo.

Yet, there are still difficult days ahead in regard to the immediate future of those who have been involved in the conflict.

"I can tell you that these families, these women and children, will need a lot of help to rebuild their lives. Houses have been razed, children have seen neighbors killed, families have been torn apart. These experiences leave emotional scars that last a lifetime. For many, the immediate outlook is bleak," Mamo said.

He continued, "Taking part in the distributions myself, I have personally seen the effect that World Vision's relief work is having. We are meeting the immediate, physical needs of thousands of people. You have to remember, many of them fled their homes and left everything behind, so they lack even basic supplies. We are able to provide some of those supplies for them and hopefully sustain them and help them get back on their feet. And I've also seen the emotional impact of our work. In a crisis like this where people have witnessed a lot of violence, the simple fact that we care about them and are working to help them lets them know that they are loved."

World Vision has been in Georgia since 1994, and currently has 155 permanent staff in Georgia working on a variety of relief, rehabilitation and development initiatives. Additionally, they have worked in the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation since 1995, including peacebuilding and economic recovery projects in North Ossetia. The organization has also worked in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Orenburg.

Project HOPE, an international organization with a fifty-year history of helping make health care better for people around the globe by effectively and efficiently providing medical supplies and medicines, is also involved in the relief efforts.

The U.S. Department of State coordinated the humanitarian aid drop to the Republic of Georgia, and asked Project HOPE and other non-governmental organizations (NGO) to help by sending medicines to help the injured and wounded.

Project HOPE has worked with the U.S. State Department on many occasions in the past and the State Department asked if their organization could also help in this situation. The medicine supplied will help prevent illness or infection due to the conflict.

"Project HOPE has sent over $400,000 in antibiotics to Georgia, nearly 4,000 bottles of liquid antibiotics. Bristol-Myers Squibb donated the medicine to Project HOPE as part of an inventory to be made available when a humanitarian crisis arose," said Marisol Euceda, media representative for Project HOPE.

The medication will help prevent some of the infections that people could contract in a war-like environment. This shipment arrived to Georgia on Aug. 13.

"Just before the conflict in Georgia commenced a humanitarian assistance shipment of more than $1.4 million of medicines and medical supplies donated by Project HOPE, working in conjunction with the American Friends of Georgia, had been delivered to Georgia. Access to the supplies was then cut off and Project HOPE and the American Friends of Georgia are exploring ways to reach the shipment and may redirect the supplies to assist in conflict relief efforts. It is unclear if the shipment is safe or if it was looted since it was in town occupied by Russian soldiers," Euceda said.

Since 1992, Project HOPE has provided more than $63 million of humanitarian assistance to the people of Georgia. Nearly one year ago, Project HOPE provided more than $8 million of medicines and medical supplies as part of a Department of State airlift. The medicines and supplies were distributed to five hospitals in the Tbilisi area.

Another organization, Medical Teams International, in partnership with Project HOPE was also in the process of preparing an additional shipment of supplies, when they were informed late in the week that shipments have been put on hold.

On Aug. 18, Medical Teams International had announced that the organization was preparing more than $100,000 in medical supplies to airship to families caught in the conflict between Russia and the former soviet republic of Georgia. On Aug. 21, Project HOPE informed Medical Teams International that the State Department flights to Georgia are now on our hold.

According to reports, Georgia has been flooded with medicines and medical supplies from European countries and the Georgian Ministry of Health is trying to keep with inventorying and distributing the products before more flights come in.

"The shipment has been put on hold, so the supplies haven't left our warehouse," said Barbara Agnew, media representative for Medical Teams International. "We will keep the antibiotics, pain relievers and other emergency supplies in our warehouse until we hear an update from Project HOPE."

Georgia, which borders Russia, is a former Soviet republic. It declared its independence in 1991 after the collapse of communism.

The conflict began when Georgia launched a military strike on the province of South Ossetia, as an aim to reclaim it after 16 years of semi-independence. In response, Russia sent in troops and armored tanks.

Fighting broke out Aug. 8 between Russia and the Democratic Republic of Georgia.

Prior to that time, relations between Moscow and Georgia were tense because Moscow continually tries to reassert influence over its bordering nations, while Georgia has aligned itself with the West.

Since the fighting began, The United States, NATO and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe called for a halt in hostilities and urged Georgia, Russia and South Ossetia to seek a more peaceful resolution.

CNN reported on Aug. 22, that Russian troops are in the final phase of their withdrawal from Georgian territory. A Russian military spokesman said it would be completed by late Friday,

Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn said Russian troops are in full compliance with the cease-fire agreement. He confirmed that Russia's military had suspended cooperation with NATO because of the rift over its actions in Georgia.

According to reports, the number of casualties has not been yet been released. There are conflicting reports in regard to the actual number of deaths.
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Title: Christians Attacked in India after Hindu Leader Killed
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 10:57:37 AM
Christians Attacked in India after Hindu Leader Killed
Vishal Arora


August 26, 2008

Two people burnt alive, churches torched in Orissa state.

NEW DELHI (Compass Direct News) -- The killing of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader Swamiji Laxmanananda Saraswati and four associates by suspected Maoists on Saturday night (August 23) led to renewed anti-Christian attacks in Orissa state, with churches torched and two people burned alive.

Accusing local Christians of killing their leader, Hindu extremists set an orphanage on fire in Khuntapali village in Barhgarh district, burning a Catholic nun to death, according to the All India Christian Council. The attack on the orphanage in Khuntapali, 250 miles west of the state capital of Bhubaneswar, also left a priest at the orphanage hospitalized with severe burns.

Over the weekend, VHP extremists in Nuagon, Kandhamal district burned alive a man suffering from paralysis, whose identity and religious affiliation were still unknown at press time, and assaulted pastors.

The Indian Express reported that a mob torched a house in Nuagaon near Pasara outpost in Chakapada area last night. The paralytic man stranded inside the house reportedly burned to death.

The Hindu extremists also launched arson attacks on at least 10 churches, several prayer houses, shops and vehicles in various parts of the eastern state. Numerous Christians have fled to jungles to save their lives, according to the AICC, which has written to the federal internal minister demanding security for the community.

Saraswati allegedly incited the attacks on Christians and their property in Kandhamal during last Christmas season. The violence lasted for more than a week beginning December 24, and killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches. The attacks were allegedly carried out mainly by VHP extremists under the pretext of avenging an alleged attack on Saraswati by local Christians.

Hundreds of Christians were displaced by the violence in Kandhamal, and they are still in various relief camps set up by the state government.

Maoists Suspected

At around 9:30 p.m. on Saturday (August 23), around 30 armed men carrying sophisticated rifles and AK-47s launched an attack on Saraswati's ashram (religious center) in the Jalespata area in Kandhamal's Tumudiband Block, killing five people, including Saraswati, reported CNN-IBN news channel.

A warning letter found at the Saraswati religious center and the use of expensive arms suggested Maoists were behind the attack. Christian groups, including the Global Council of Indian Christians, the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India, the AICC, and the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI) condemned the killing of Saraswati and his associates.

The Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), a partner in the state's ruling coalition led by the Biju Janata Dal party, and the VHP called for 12-hour a strike in which inflammatory speeches were made accusing Christians of killing Saraswati.

"Swamiji [Saraswati] was opposed to religious conversion taking place in various parts of Orissa," BJP state leader Suresh Pujari told Press Trust of India. "Those opposed to Swamiji's anti-conversion activities killed him."

On Sunday, the Kandhamal district administration imposed a curfew in all sensitive areas in Kandhamal and issued orders prohibiting the gathering of four or more people throughout the district. All borders of the district were also sealed.

Defying the orders, VHP extremists took Saraswati's funeral procession from the Jalespata religious center to the main ashram in Chakapada, covering around 70 kilometers (44 miles), apparently to incite violence. According to media reports, they launched attacks on Christian institutions along the way.

"A large number of supporters of Laxmanananda entered the district headquarter town of Phulbani in violation of curfew restrictions on their way to Chakapada and targeted churches and houses," Kandhamal District Collector (administrative head) Krishan Kumar told The Indian Express newspaper.

Numerous Attacks

The newspaper also reported that two police officers suffered injuries when they tried to prevent the mob from attacking churches, prayer halls, houses and vehicles on the route of the procession.

Eyewitnesses told the newspaper that a Baptist church and its parsonage, a Roman Catholic church, three houses and some vehicles were attacked by the extremists in Phulbani town, the district headquarters. Nine shops and two vehicles were also torched in Raikia, and two jeeps in Udayagiri.

In Nuagaon, Kandhamal district, Hindu extremists reportedly gang-raped a young Catholic nun of the Cuttack-Bhubaneswar diocese working with the Jan Vikas Kendra social service center before destroying the building.

John Dayal of the AICC reported that less than a kilometer away from the social service center, a senior priest and nun were injured when Hindu extremists attacked the facility.

Calling for their blood, Hindu extremists took the director of the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Kanjimendi, known only as Father Thomas, and a nun to a local police station, then set the center on fire.

The Pioneer newspaper reported that VHP extremists burned a small thatched prayer house on Saturday night in Tentulijhari area in Sundargarh district.

The EFI reported that pastor Jeebaratna Lima of the Believer's Church from Khurda district was attacked on Sunday while he was going to his church to conduct the prayer service. The mob almost set him on fire after spraying him with gas, but police arrived in time to save him.

Another Believer's Church pastor, Bahumulya Paik, was attacked the same day in Bamunidei village in Ganjam district.

The violence continued today. The VHP and its youth wing, the Bajrang Dal, with the support of the BJP enforced a dawn-to-dusk closure across the state, organizing numerous protests and road and rail blockades and launching more attacks. As a precautionary measure, the state government ordered closure of all schools and colleges.

According to Indo-Asian News Service (IANS), the protestors today attacked more than 10 churches and dozens of vehicles in different parts of the state and clashed with police in some places.

According to the EFI report, a Believers Church was also vandalized in Chandrasekharpur area in the state capital, Bhubaneswar.

"It was a spontaneous response of the people to the shutdown," national coordinator of the Bajrang Dal, Subash Chauhan, claimed while speaking to IANS.

While the district administration has suspended the officer-in-charge of the Tumudiband police station, Orissa state chief minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered a judicial probe into the incident and announced a compensation of 200,000 rupees (US$4,617) to the next of kin of the deceased.

The population of Kandhamal is 600,000, which includes around 150,000 Christians.

According to The Pioneer, police have arrested three Christians in connection with Saraswati's murder, but at press time police had not confirmed the report.
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Title: In Gori, Relief Logistics Move Forward
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 10:59:16 AM
In Gori, Relief Logistics Move Forward
Mark Kelly


August 27, 2008

TBLISI, Georgia (BP) -- When Russian troops pulled back from Gori, Georgia, Aug. 22, a Southern Baptist overseas relief team in Tblisi scrambled to assess the need for humanitarian assistance.

"The city of Gori is in overall pretty decent condition," one team member reported. "The destruction was mostly to army bases and government buildings. It seems like most homes were spared, although there were entire blocks of apartments bombed. You can see where all of the glass was gone and fires burned on the top floors."

When the team was able to get to the church building that will be their command center for relief operations, they saw that a building 100 yards away had been destroyed when the city was bombed. They were told several people died in the explosion.

Team members were able to hold an impromptu meeting with the governor of Gori on the street in the city center, the team member reported.

"We were asked to meet needs that are not being met by major humanitarian organizations," he said. "We are going to buy and deliver things such as body soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, toothbrushes and other toiletries for several thousand people."

Russian troops have pulled back to a position six miles outside Gori and continue to control access to Georgia's key port at Poti, according to the AFP news service. Russians also are manning positions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, two provinces that have sought independence from Georgia. The Russians also have left "peacekeepers" in a buffer zone they created inside Georgia.

The Southern Baptist team plans to begin remodeling a building shell made available to them by a local Baptist partner. The building, which is strategically located, will be able to feed 400 people inside, and more outside, the team reported. It also will serve as housing for volunteers and eventually will provide classrooms and work space for community development projects.

"The refugees from surrounding villages whose houses were destroyed will need to be fed from this center," the team member said. "They are expecting as many as 20,000 long-term refugees here. People from the surrounding villages --- Georgian nationals living in South Ossetia --- have been burned out and banished from their homes. It is doubtful they will ever be able to return to their villages."

A seven-member team of disaster relief specialists from Texas Baptist Men was scheduled to leave for Georgia Aug. 27, with a similar team of specialists from the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma following soon after, according to Jim Brown, U.S. director of Baptist Global Response, a Southern Baptist international relief and development organization. With Gori opening to relief workers, the timetable may be accelerated and the dimensions of a volunteer response enlarged.

A U.S. Navy ship carrying relief supplies has docked at Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi, about 30 miles south of Russian-occupied Poti, according to news reports. Three ships have been dispatched with cargoes of humanitarian aid for the estimated 100,000 people in Georgia displaced by the fighting.
___________________________________


Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 25, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 11:01:06 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 25, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Most Americans Think Churches Should Avoid Politics
    * Turkey: Malatya Murders Linked to Political Conspiracy
    * China Returns Confiscated Bibles to Departing U.S. Christians
    * Young Evangelical Backs Out of Convention Prayer

 

Most Americans Think Churches Should Avoid Politics

Religion News Service reports that a slim majority of Americans, including rising numbers of conservatives, say churches should stay out of politics, according to a survey released Thursday (Aug. 21) by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press. Fifty-two percent of Americans say they think houses of worship should not express their opinions about political and social matters, while 45 percent say they approve of such expression. The center said this marks the first time since it started asking the question in 1996 that respondents who want churches to stay out of politics outnumber those with the opposite view. Conservatives, especially, have reconsidered the issue, with 50 percent saying congregations should stay out of politics. Only 30 voiced that opinion in 2004. The study was based on telephone interviews from July 31-Aug. 10 with a national sample of 2,905 adults.

Turkey: Malatya Murders Linked to Political Conspiracy

Compass Direct News reports that the five young Turkish men accused of torturing and killing three Christians in Malatya last year may have been incited by members of a vast political conspiracy allegedly responsible for multiple murders in recent years. The 10th hearing on the murder of three Christians at a publishing house in southeast Turkey 16 months ago took place Aug. 21 at the Malatya Third Criminal Court. Plaintiff attorneys requested the case be integrated with an investigation into Ergenekon, an ultranationalist cabal of retired generals, politicians, journalists and mafia members under investigation for conspiracy in various murders. In January police uncovered and started arresting members of Ergenekon. A criminal investigation has linked them to high-profile attacks, murders and plans to engineer domestic chaos and ultimately overthrow the government.

China Returns Confiscated Bibles to Departing U.S. Christians

The Associated Press reports Chinese officials returned 315 Chinese-language Bibles to a group of American Christians only as the group prepared to leave the country Wednesday. Members of Vision Beyond Borders initially staged a sit-in at the airport, but after 26 hours when they realized their Bibles would not be returned. The group was informed on Monday by the U.S. Embassy that Chinese law forbids bringing religious materials into the country for distribution. Group representative Pat Klein told the Associated Press by phone that officials were civil, but clearly wanted the group to leave, as they were escorted to immigration after the Bibles were returned. The Sheridan, Wyoming-based group distributes Bibles and Christian teaching materials around the world.

Young Evangelical Backs Out of Convention Prayer

The Christian Post reports that Cameron Strang, the 32-year-old editor of Relevant Magazine, has rethought giving a prayer at this week's Democratic National Convention. Strang cited concerns that even delivering a prayer could be seen as a party endorsement, though that was not his intention. "Through Relevant, I reach a demographic that has strong faith, morals and passion, but disagreements politically," Strang wrote on his blog. "It wouldn't be wise for me to be seen as picking a political side when I've consistently said both sides are right in some areas and wrong in some areas." Strange said he will participate instead in a convention caucus meeting on religion later in the week. Thanks partially to Obama's aggressive recruitment of young religious voters, this year's DNC has a special focus on faith events and discussions.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 26, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 11:02:46 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 26, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Christian Groups to Help Clean Up Fay's Mess in Florida
    * Democrats Demonstrate Faith at Convention
    * Are the Chinese Content with Their Spiritual Lives?
    * Survey: Christian Women and Sexual Harassment

 

Christian Groups to Help Clean Up Fay's Mess in Florida


The Christian Post reports that Christian aid organizations are preparing to head into Florida as tropical depression Fay loses energy, finally leaving the state after a record four landfalls. "We are receiving reports of catastrophic flooding and debris in parts of the state," said Marilyn Swanson, director of Disaster Recovery Ministry for the United Methodist Church's Florida Annual (regional) Conference, in a report Friday. "We are trying to anticipate the needs that will be arising in the next few days." United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and the Salvation Army will deliver special support to storm victims who were swamped by severe floodwaters, and UMCOR are also re-stocking their local food pantries. The storm is responsible for at least 11 deaths in Florida, and at least 23 more due to extreme flooding in Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Democrats Demonstrate Faith at Convention

This year's Democratic National Convention features a new element: a vast display of faith of all kinds, Fox News reports. The first-ever interfaith meeting featured a readings from the Torah, the Koran, the sayings of Buddha and the New Testament by each religion's representative. The convention begins each night with an invocation and ends with a benediction delivered by a national faith leader, all part of an effort to reach faith voters. "Democrats have been, are and will continue to be people of faith -- and this convention will demonstrate that in an unprecedented way," Leah Daughtry, CEO of the DNCC, said in a written statement. "As convention CEO and a pastor myself, I am incredibly proud that so many esteemed leaders from the faith community will be with us to celebrate this historic occasion and honor the diverse faith traditions inside the Democratic party."

Are the Chinese Content with Their Spiritual Lives?

ASSIST News Service reports that in a recent www.CBNNews.com story, Brian Grim of The Pew Forum asserted that although 80 percent of Chinese citizens are pleased with the direction China is moving in economically, Grim doesn't believe this is necessarily an indication that the Chinese are happy with their personal lives. Grim further noted that interest in religion is high: "A whopping 96 percent thinks that the Olympics will be a success, but a much lower percentage are satisfied with their jobs and family life, etc. So within this context of high satisfaction with the country and low satisfaction with the daily life, we find that religious interest is very high in China today." According to a Religion Newswriters Association source guide on China and religion, China recognizes five major religions: Taoism, Buddhism, Islam, Catholic Christianity and Protestant Christianity. It is estimated that hundreds of millions of Chinese participate in spiritual practices that are banned by the Chinese government at local altars and temples.

Survey: Christian Women and Sexual Harassment

OneNewsNow reports that a new survey showed that more than a quarter of self-described "active Christian women" have experienced sexually inappropriate behavior, and a quarter of those place the incident inside church settings. The survey by NationalChristianPoll.com asked nearly 800 women about such inappropriate behavior as sexual advances, touching or sexual contact, suggestive jokes, glances with sexual overtones and demeaning comments. The study showed that encounters with inappropriate behavior occurred mainly in non-ministry settings, but also that 53 percent of women who experienced such behavior said they would not report it. "There is a lot of inappropriate 'conversation' being tolerated by women so as not to antagonize men in their workplaces," said Joy Thornburg Melton, an ordained minister and attorney who currently serves in the United Methodist Church as chief resource officer for PACT (United Methodist Property and Casualty Trust), according to Christianity Today magazine.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 27, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 27, 2008, 11:04:37 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 27, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Orissa: Hindu Mob Attacks Christian Orphanage
    * Young Adults Struggle More with Morality, Survey Finds
    * India: Many Dead, Homeless as Monsoon Hits
    * Malaysia: Government Issues Demand to Catholic Newspaper

 

Orissa: Hindu Mob Attacks Christian Orphanage


Christian Post reports that the deadly attacks on Christians following the killing of a radical Hindu leader are becoming a "rampage" in India's Orissa state. Christians are literally "running for their lives," says one missionary. A Hindu mob burned down a Christian orphanage on Monday, seriously injuring a priest and killing one woman. The mob removed the children from the orphanage but trapped the 21-year-old woman inside before torching the building. Gospel for Asia reports that at least one of missionaries was attacked, but rescued by police. Radical Hindu leader Swami Laxmananand Saraswati was killed by suspected Maoists or communist rebels, but Christians are being blamed. The Bishop of Sambalpur Lucas Kerketta told the Hindustan Times, "We are afraid to move out. Some Christians staying in institutions or bungalows are hiding in jungles or villages. We have two to three policemen, and they can't control a big crowd... we have asked for more security."

Young Adults Struggle More with Morality, Survey Finds


The Christian Post reports that new study from the Barna Group finds that Americans are talking about moral issues more and more, and that talk is redefining acceptable action, especially for young adults. Adults under 25 are more than twice as likely to cross traditional standards, according to the survey. "The moral code began to disintegrate when the generation before them - the Baby Busters - pushed the limits that had been challenged by their parents - the Baby Boomers," director George Barna noted. "The result is that without much fanfare or visible leadership, the U.S. has created a moral system based on convenience, feelings, and selfishness." More than 1,000 adults surveyed were asked if they had engaged in any of eight morally questionable behaviors over the past week, such as lying, using profanity in public, and having sex with someone to whom they were not married.

India: Many Dead, Homeless as Monsoon Hits

Mission News Network reports that at least 1,060 people in India have died as monsoon season hits. Brent Hample with India Partners says their ministry partners have also suffered. "Nearly 70 villages have been marooned by floods and have been completely cut off. Houses collapsed, and that's how a lot of people perish in the flooding--when the mud walls of the thatched huts collapse on people and the weight pins them under the water." People fear disease may take hold as they are without food and clean water in the flooding, which is worst flooding in 10 years. According to Hample, India Partners is working to provide shelter, food, clean water and medical care.

Malaysia: Government Issues Demand to Catholic Newspaper


Compass Direct News reports that the Ministry of Home Affairs has issued a warning to a Catholic weekly demanding an explanation for articles that did not "focus" on religion and for a report that allegedly degraded Islam entitled, "America and Jihad -- where do they stand?" Father Lawrence Andrew, editor of the Herald, revealed on August 10 that the ministry had issued the "show-cause" letter accusing the newspaper of breaking publication rules on July 16. The ministry's letter reportedly warned that it "would not hesitate to take sterner action" if the Herald repeats its alleged offenses. According to The Associated Press, an unnamed ministry official on August 11 said the Herald must explain satisfactorily why it ran the articles and pledge to stick by the rules or risk suspension. Fr. Andrew told Compass the letter did not specify exactly what the "sterner actions" would be.
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Title: Even in Tough Times, Charitable Giving Stays Strong
Post by: nChrist on August 29, 2008, 10:41:20 AM
Even in Tough Times, Charitable Giving Stays Strong
Kristen Campbell


August 28, 2008

MOBILE, Ala. (RNS) -- When parishioners at All Saints Episcopal Church began distributing groceries to families in need a few years ago, they gave away about 100 boxes of food.

Within the last year, the Rev. Jim Flowers said, they began stocking and giving out 175 boxes, and they still run out of supplies.

While this city may not have encountered the widespread economic hardships some U.S. cities have experienced, Americans along the Gulf Coast, as elsewhere, have nevertheless spent a summer grappling with soaring gas prices and rising food costs.

State records show the sum of food stamp dollars doled out monthly in Alabama increased by a third -- from $41.6 million to $55.3 million -- between May 2004 and May 2008. This past May, 572,000 people participated, up 78,000 from five years ago.

Nationwide, 72 percent of Americans say the economy is either in a recession or a depression, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press recently reported. The group also stated it was getting harder for many Americans to afford some of life's most basic necessities.

For faith-based organizations, widespread economic woes might seem to have the potential to create a complicated situation: At the same time that more people may call upon them for assistance, those who routinely provide funding to charitable groups may be less able to respond.

Historically, however, church-member giving doesn't necessarily decline in a recession, according to empty tomb, inc., an Illinois-based research group that studies religious giving. This "probably has to do with the fact that churches are generally seen as the layer immediately beyond the family in terms of responsibility, accountability, relationships," explained Sylvia Ronsvalle, executive vice president of empty tomb.

For churches, "The needs are front and center," Ronsvalle said, and may entail anything from the power bill and pastor's salary to community service. "There is a communication system which underscores the importance of the religious impulse in giving, which other research supports."

Flowers, rector at All Saints Episcopal Church, said he's told his parish that it's apparent that needs are greater as a result of the current financial climate.

The congregation is "responding beautifully" and pledges are substantially up this year, Flowers said.

Meanwhile, Robert E. Kirby Jr., director of the Catholic Charities Appeal, said those who promised to provide funding -- nearly $4.3 million in all -- for some of the Archdiocese of Mobile's social service ministries are fulfilling their pledges.

"When people pledge to Catholic Charities, they fulfill that pledge," he said. "We're right where we should be."

Kirby recently noted, however, that the cost of providing services had doubled for ministries that involve travel.

"That kind of crimps things a little bit," he said, but funds to cover such increased costs are available.

Linda Johnson, administrator at this city's Mount Hebron Baptist Church, said her congregation is witnessing an increase in community needs. At its newly opened pantry, clothing and non-perishable food items are available for members and non-members alike. Funded by donations from church members, the facility is staffed on Mondays and Fridays.

"We're just excited to be able to be a blessing," she said.
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Title: Eritreans in Saudi Detention Center Begin Hunger Strike
Post by: nChrist on August 29, 2008, 10:42:34 AM
Eritreans in Saudi Detention Center Begin Hunger Strike
Michael Ireland


August 29, 2008

SAUDI ARABIA (ANS) -- Fourteen Eritreans in a Saudi detention center have begun a hunger strike to highlight the continuing plight of Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers.

According to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), the Eritreans are part of a group of 28 refugees and asylum seekers who have been held in Gizan Detention Center for periods ranging from three to seven years, pending offers of resettlement in third countries.

CSW says that while conditions in Gizan are relatively good, inmates are not allowed to work, study or receive training of any sort. Consequently, many suffer depression due to enforced idleness and separation from families.

The move comes as hundreds of Eritreans in Libya called off a five-day hunger strike aimed at drawing attention to their continued incarceration.

In a media advisory, CSW says 700 Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers have been incarcerated in Libya's Misrata Detention Center for the last two years, and are being held in cramped and squalid conditions where abuse is rife and food, potable water and medical treatment are scarce.

CSW says the group, which includes around 30 children, recently staged a five-day a hunger strike in the hope of persuading the international community, and particularly the European Union (EU), to urgently facilitate their resettlement in third countries. However, the hunger-strike was called off five days later, following fresh offers of resettlement and promises of improved living conditions.

Meanwhile, at least 1,000 refugees and asylum seekers forcibly returned to Eritrea in June by the Egyptian government have been jailed in Wi'a military camp under conditions of extreme hardship and abuse.

The camp is situated in one of hottest places on earth, used during the Italian colonial era as a place of extreme punishment. Only pregnant women and those with young children have escaped this fate.

In addition, news received in July by the opposition Eritrean Democratic Alliance (EDA) appears to indicate that an unspecified number of returnees may have been executed in military camps in front of fellow prisoners in order to dissuade onlookers from escaping.

CSW's spokesperson on Sub-Saharan Africa says: "We call on key members of the international community to consider offering sanctuary to Eritrean refugees and asylum seekers.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the thousand men and women currently detained in the Wi'a military camp in Eritrea suffering unimaginable hardship and mistreatment in the most arduous conditions. Their fate should serve as a stark reminder of the appalling consequences of returning vulnerable people to countries where they have a well-founded fear of persecution."

CSW is a human rights organization which specializes in religious freedom, works on behalf of those persecuted for their Christian beliefs and promotes religious liberty for all.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 28, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 29, 2008, 10:44:36 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 28, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Clarity of New Chronological Bible at Question
    * Priest Cracks Code to Methodist Founder's Journal
    * India: Orissa Violence Claims More Lives
    * China Detains Underground Catholic Bishop

 

Clarity of New Chronological Bible at Question

A new study Bible offers a decided twist on Scripture - publisher Thomas Nelson will release the Chronological Study Bible next month, marketing it as the "only study Bible that presents the text of the New King James Version in chronological order," according to the Christian Post. The edition merges books or lifts them to entirely different places to fit the historical timeline. For instance, the Gospels are condensed into one narrative centered around Mark's order, and Psalm 51 is placed immediately after the story of David and Bathsheba. Many biblical scholars argue the edition twists the Bible's original purpose as holy instruction, a position which the Christian blogosphere mostly echoes. "I do think you do lose something when you start demolishing any book of the Bible," said Richard Hess, professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary in Colorado, according to The Tennessean. "You lose the literary and theological context."

India: Orissa Violence Claims More Lives

Compass Direct News reports that three more deaths were reported Thursday in the eastern state of Orissa, where a spate of anti-Christian violence began after suspected Maoists murdered Hindu leader Swami Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples on Aug. 23. The number of people confirmed dead has risen to 21 on the fourth day of ongoing violence in Kandhamal district and other parts of Orissa. The Global Council of Indian Christians (GCIC) reported that more than 114 anti-Christian attacks have taken place in various parts of the state. "The worst hit are the people in Kandhamal district, where more than 400 churches, more than 500 houses and many Christian institutions have been demolished," GCIC President Dr. Sajan K. George said in a memorandum to the state governor. Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported that three more bodies were recovered today. One body was discovered from Phiringia area and another from Raikia in Kandhamal. Kandhamal district collector Kishan Kumar told IANS, "A third person was rescued in a critical condition, but died on Tuesday night in the hospital." IANS reported that the state administration today issued "shoot-at-sight" orders to police in Kandhamal, as "mobs defied curfew, blocked roads and attacked churches and Christian homes."

Anglican Priest Cracks Code to Methodist Founder's Journal

ASSIST News Service reports that an Anglican priest has finally cracked the code Methodist co-founder Charles Wesley used when writing about sensitive matters in his diary some 250 years ago. Jenna Lyle, writing for Christiantoday.com  says that more than 1,000 handwritten pages dating from 1736 to 1756 have been deciphered by the Rev Professor Kenneth Newport, pro vice-chancellor for research and academic development at Liverpool Hope University. Lyle says the transcribed pages reveal the extent of Charles' anger with his brother, fellow Methodist founder John Wesley, over the latter's plans to marry and disagreements over a split from the Church of England. "He was very much opposed to separation, he saw the Methodist Societies as within the established church and anything that smacked of separation was something he took a very strong view of," Rev Prof Newport was quoted by The Telegraph newspaper as saying. Lyle reports the transcribed diary pages will be published together with 9,000 never-before-seen poems and hymns.

China Detains Underground Catholic Bishop

The Associated Press reports that Bishop Julius Jia Zhiguo, an elderly bishop of an underground Catholic church, is being held by government officials with no word on where or why he was arrested. Jia, 73, was arrested from his church hours before the closing ceremonies of the Olympics. Those the AP reached with the public security bureau said they knew nothing about the case. According to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which aims to promote the Roman Catholic church in China, said Jia has been details at least a dozen times since January 2004. Catholics may worship only in government-sanctioned and approved churches in China.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 29, 2008
Post by: nChrist on August 29, 2008, 10:46:15 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 29, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Orissa: Christians in Hiding as Violence Continues
    * Laos: Christians Ordered to Renounce Faith
    * 'Fireproof' Supporters Mobilize Moviegoers for Opening
    * Southern Baptists Lead Get-Out-the-Vote Prayer

 

Orissa: Christians in Hiding as Violence Continues

Mission News Network reports that the violence in India's Orissa state continues, and Christian groups are contributing to attacks on rival Hindu groups. Officials have issued orders to shoot on site anyone who breaks the imposed curfew. According to one anonymous ministry leader, the situation has quelled most Christian outreach and ministry. "Where we had programs, the Christians are no longer living there. In cases where they haven't fled, there is enough fear created where it will be a while before they have the courage to gather together--whether it be in a church service, or children's program, or in the evening with our literacy classes." Mission India works through indigenous Christians, but many of them have fled to the forests and few are still attending literacy programs.

Laos: Christians Ordered to Renounce Faith

Compass Direct News reports that the chief of Boukham village in Savannakhet province, Laos today ordered the families of three detained Christians in Savannakhet province to sign documents renouncing their faith. Human Rights Watch for Lao Religious Freedom reported that the family members refused. A crackdown in other parts of Laos continued, with new incidents reported this week in Attapue and Borikhamxay provinces. On Aug. 25, the chief of Donphai village in Attapue province summoned Christians and fined them for holding a church service during local animistic ceremonies. In Borikhamxay province, officials continued to pressure 22 Christian families comprising 150 people in Toongpankham village who have refused to give up their faith. Village officials had torn down their church building in January, then in mid-August harassed church members for not meeting in a proper worship facility.

'Fireproof' Supporters Mobilize Moviegoers for Opening

The Christian Post reports that Christians across are the country are ready to greet the next Christian blockbuster from the makers of "Facing the Giants." Sherwood Pictures, the moviemaking ministry of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga., is working to mobilize viewers and supporters for a strong opening weekend, hoping that will extend the movie's reach even further. Directed and produced by brothers and associate pastors Alex and Stephen Kendrick, "Fireproof" stars actor Kirk Cameron playing a fireman with a desperate marriage on the verge divorce. According to the Christian Post, the movie has earned the support of more than 50 marriage ministries for its pro-marriage message. The film opens the weekend of Sept. 26-28.

Southern Baptists Lead Get-Out-the-Vote Prayer


Southern Baptists are coupling their values-voter registration drive with a nationwide prayer campaign, the 40/40 Prayer Vigil. According to the Associated Press, the campaign seeks "spiritual renewal for families and churches, and God's favor for public officials who are guided by the Bible." According to Rev. Richard Land, head of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, more than 1,300 churches have registered for the prayer campaign, set to run from Sept. 24 to Nov. 2. "Our vision statement is an American society that affirms and practices Judeo-Christian values rooted in biblical authority," Land said. "America will be better off if people who are voting are seeking God's guidance."
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Title: Orissa: Violence Slowing, But Interior Villages Still Targeted
Post by: nChrist on September 02, 2008, 10:24:16 AM
Orissa: Violence Slowing, But Interior Villages Still Targeted
ASSIST News Service


September 1, 2008

NEW DELHI, INDIA (ANS) -- Reports of attacks from the eastern state of Orissa are decreasing, but many rural villages remain cut off from communication and being attacked at night. Outside Orissa, the Indian Christian community engaged in several peaceful protest actions to highlight the breakdown of the rule of law and governance. After six days of rioting, the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, broke his silence and called the violence a "national shame".

"We are thankful that we did not receive any reports of new attacks last night. However, there are literally thousands of displaced Christians whose homes were destroyed in the mob violence. Hundreds more are afraid to return home," said Rev. P.R. Parichha, All India Christian Council (aicc) Orissa state president. "The violence in towns and cities seems to be over, but the villages face the strong possibility of more attacks since security forces are spread thin. We still are requesting military intervention," said Parichha.

Media reports said Orissa officials estimate 4,000 Christian families are homeless. The death toll, currently at 17, is expected to raise as troops secure rural areas. The violence, which at one point spread across 12 of 30 districts in the state, now seems to be contained to Kandhamal District, the epicenter of similar attacks during Christmas 2007.

In protest of the collapse of governance and the rule of law in Orissa, about 10,000 Christians rallied in New Delhi this morning and were joined by Muslims, Buddhists, and progressive Hindus. Protestors tried to march to Orissa Bhavan (the official state government guest house in the capitol), but police issued a localized curfew to stop the rally. Attendees were forced to regroup at the Teen Murti traffic circle, but eventually reached Orissa Bhavan.

"Udit Raj, a major Dalit leader, and other non-Christian human rights activists clearly explained that the violence in Orissa is not because Christians are fraudulently converting people. That allegation is simply lie and hate propaganda."

Civil society leaders suggested India needs an investigation into why Hindu nationalist organizations -- who have converted tribals and Dalits in a major campaign -- are not being held accountable under Orissa's 1967 Freedom of Religion Act. "We must confront the fictional idea of "re-conversions", created by Hindutva activists, which ignores the fact that these people's ancestors were animists and not Hindus," said Rev. Madhu Chandra, aicc Regional Secretary and a member of the rally's organizing committee.

Also, an estimated 30,000 Christian schools across India closed their doors on Friday. The goal was to make millions of children -- and their parents -- aware of the evil of communal violence and the damage it is doing to the world's largest democracy. Aicc and major church networks which called for the closure encouraged people to pray for victims as well as perpetrators. Much of the Indian press inaccurately reported that only Roman Catholic schools were closed.

Christian leaders are also calling for a day of prayer and fasting across India on September 7, 2008.

In the aftermath of the murder of a Hindu swami by unknown assailants on August 23, 2008, mobs attacked the Christian community across the eastern state of Orissa. Media reports and eye witness accounts from aicc leaders indicate thousands of Christian properties burnt, sexual assaults of nuns, and pastors killed in their homes. See dedicated webpage at: http://indianchristians.in/news/content/view/2332/45/

From Dec. 24, 2007-Jan. 2, 2008, attacks in Kandhamal district killed at least four Christians and destroyed over 100 churches and 730 Christian homes. Most of the victims were Dalits, formerly known as untouchables.

The All India Christian Council (http://www.aiccindia.org/), birthed in 1998, exists to protect and serve the Christian community, minorities, and the oppressed castes. The aicc is a coalition of thousands of Indian denominations, organizations, and lay leaders.
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Title: Indonesia: Students Ordered to Leave Campground
Post by: nChrist on September 02, 2008, 10:26:13 AM
Indonesia: Students Ordered to Leave Campground
Edi Mujiono


September 2, 2008

Principal refuses; mobs with knives and sharpened bamboo still active.

JAKARTA, (Compass Direct News) -- The manager of a campground in East Jakarta this week asked staff members and 600 female students from a theological college who had taken refuge there to leave and pay stiff fees.

Officials had sent the students to the facility after a violent mob attacked the Arastamar Evangelical School of Theology (SETIA) in East Jakarta on July 25.

Principal Matheus Mangentang refused to leave, saying that Fauzi Bowo, governor of Jakarta, had ordered them to stay at the campground. He further asked that the manager send the bill, amounting to 268 million rupiah (US$29,000) for four weeks of accommodation, to the governor's office.

The governor then suggested moving the staff and students to an old building once used as the office for the mayor of West Jakarta. Mangentang again refused, as the building would accommodate only 100 students and has very limited water and bathroom facilities.

Protestors first attacked the SETIA campus in Kampung Pulo, East Jakarta, on July 25. When police intervention failed, staff members and students were evacuated on July 26 and 27, even as protestors armed with swords, machetes, bamboo stakes and acid continued to attack them.

At least 20 students were injured in the attack, some with sword slashes.

Following the evacuation, some students were temporarily billeted in church offices, while others slept in the lobby of Indonesia's parliament building.

Officials then moved the female students to the Bumi Perkemahan Cibubur (BUPERTA) campground in East Jakarta, while the 500 male students were sent to a transmigrant accommodation facility in Bekasi.

At press time, police had still not arrested anyone in relation to the attack nor carried out an investigation.

The school, founded 21 years ago, has full legal permission and registration to operate. While now sitting in the middle of a populated area, when originally established the college was surrounded only by cornfields and banana plantations. (See Compass Direct News, "Students Demand Safe Return to College in Indonesia," July 31.)

Mobs Still Active

When a rumor spread that SETIA students would return to the campus on Sunday (August 24), a mob assembled at the entrance gate, equipped with swords, knives and sharpened bamboo stakes. The rumor, however, was false, and the mob eventually dispersed.

On August 21, when staff member Miryo Suripati returned to her home near the campus to collect some clothing, a crowd of young people carrying swords and other weapons gathered outside the building. A local public order official explained that Suripati was not a student but a resident of the community and quickly escorted her out of the housing estate.

A handful of men who declared themselves spokesmen for the Kampung Pulo area have since claimed that residents object to the presence of the college. Compass sources refuted this claim, pointing out that students were welcome customers at area photocopying facilities, snack shops and other retail outlets, while residents were employed at the college as kitchen hands, cooks and security personnel.

The mobs were mostly composed of people from neighboring communities, not local residents, sources said.

Female Students in Tents

The BUPERTA campground is about a 90-minute drive from Jakarta, far from snack shops or stores selling daily necessities. The female students are accommodated in large tents, with their belongings stacked against the tent walls, limited laundry and toilet facilities and a makeshift open-air kitchen.

Some students expressed concern that the rainy season might begin soon, turning the flat campground into a swamp.

Church leaders who recently visited BUPERTA and took note of conditions said they would lobby the governor for permission for the students to return to their campus.

Several students, including Julidana Reva and Lasse (who has only a single name), who traveled from distant Nias Island to study at SETIA, told Compass that study was extremely difficult under these circumstances and that their lives were virtually "on hold" until they returned to campus.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 1, 2008
Post by: nChrist on September 02, 2008, 10:40:46 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 1, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Gustav Prompts Relief Teams' Preparations
    * Grant Aims to Expand Pro-Gay Church
    * Man Donates $3M Lottery Ticket to Church
    * China Missed Chance to Improve Rights Image, Says U.S.

 

Gustav Prompts Relief Teams' Preparations

Baptist Press reports that as Hurricane Gustav churns toward the Louisiana-Mississippi Gulf Coast region, Southern Baptist disaster relief units in Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, New Mexico and Virginia have been put on alert for a possible response. Gustav, which made landfall in Kingston, Jamaica, this week, is expected to reach Category 3 hurricane status by the time it makes predicted landfall on the Gulf Coast Tuesday. The National Weather Service said the storm possibly could reach Category 5 status by then. Disaster relief coordinators at the North American Mission Board have already been in contact with the American Red Cross and Salvation Army which have requested that Baptists be prepared to provide more than 310,000 meals per day in response to the storm.

Grant Aims to Expand Pro-Gay Church


A $1.2 million grant given to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Foundation's Institute for Welcoming Resources and five partner organizations will be spent increasing the "capacity and voice of Christian organizations that support gays and lesbians," according to the Christian Post. For Kermit Rainman, social research analyst for Focus on the Family, calls the move a "false doctrine [that]is playing out in denomination after denomination, with increasing discord." According to the Post, more than 3,100 churches throughout the country already give explicit welcome to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people for full membership and interaction in their congregations.

Man Donates $3M Lottery Ticket to Church

What would you do with a $3 million lottery ticket? The Associated Press reports that Pastor Bertrand Crabbe of the True North Community Church of Port Jefferson, N.Y., received an unexpected gift last week when a church member donated the ticket to the church, saying, "This was why God put the ticket in his hands." The man wishes to remain anonymous. The independent Christian church will receive more than $102,000 a year through 2028, according to the state lottery. The ticket was bought July 19. The same day, Crabbe said, the man with the ticket "called me, invited me to his home, told me he had won and his intentions. He said he wanted to bless the church." Crabbe said the first year's money will go towards charities that fight human trafficking.

China Missed Chance to Improve Rights Image, Says U.S.

The Christian Post reports that China missed a golden opportunity to show an improved human rights and religious freedom image during the Olympic Games, the White House said. "It was maybe an opportunity missed for the Chinese to demonstrate their willingness to be more open and to allow more freedom of speech, freedom of religion, while the world was watching," said White House spokesman Tony Fratto earlier this week, according to Reuters. China should have allowed peaceful protestors to demonstrate without interferance, he said. Bush pressured the Chinese government towards greater religious freedom, but was told not to interfere with China's internal affairs.
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 2, 2008
Post by: nChrist on September 02, 2008, 10:42:50 AM
Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 2, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Assyrian Bishops Call for Assyrian Autonomy in Iraq
    * Australian Christians Walk to Bring Bibles to Persecuted Believers
    * Christian Charities Say Poverty Must Be Gov't Priority
    * Thousands Homeless after Orissa Violence

 

Assyrian Bishops Call for Assyrian Autonomy in Iraq

ASSIST News Service reports that four Assyrian bishops have called for religious autonomy in northern Iraq. According to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA), Ablahad Gallo Shabo is the latest bishop from the Syriac Orthodox Church to call for local self-governance for the Assyrians in northern Iraq's Nineveh plain. The prelate expressed his call for local self-governance during an interview with Ishtar TV, which broadcasts from northern Iraq. AINA reports that Ablahad Gallo Shabo, who ministers a congregation of 30,000 Assyrians in Sweden, said the world community must help the Assyrians to achieve rights to govern themselves in the Nineveh plain, but at the same time that this must not be understood as a wish to break up Iraq. Joining the two Syriac Orthodox bishops in the call for local governance for Assyrians are two bishops of the Assyrian Catholic church, Bawai Soro and Sarhad Jammo.

Australian Christians Walk to Bring Bibles to Persecuted Believers

The Christian Post reports that more than 700 Christians have participated in Walk4Bibles this year to fund almost 14,000 Bibles for persecuted believers worldwide. Organized by Bible league, participants in 10 cities in Australia walked 7 to 14 kilometers. Two more walks are scheduled. "I counted the Bibles at home and we had 10," said 9-year-old Rachael, according to Bible League. "There are families that don't have any. It makes me feel sad. I am glad that I can do something by walking." Floryn, a pastor in Romania during communist rule, had a great time taking part in the Perth walk in April. "It's a great feeling," he said. "It's amazing to know that we can make a difference for people who cannot afford or cannot have a Bible."

Christian Charities Say Poverty Must Be Gov't Priority

Religion News Service reports that Christian aid organizations are calling on the federal government to make fighting poverty a national priority, in response to new economic data from the Census Bureau. According to the bureau's report, released Tuesday (Aug. 26), the percentage of Americans living below the poverty level remained statistically unchanged from 2006 to 2007. During that same 12-month period the median income increased and the number of Americans without health insurance declined. The data not take into account the nation's recent economic downturn. The Rev. Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, called the current poverty level "unacceptable." "Let these troubling poverty statistics be a call to action for each of us," said Snyder. "We must demand that our current and future leaders give a much higher priority to the needs of the poor in their policymaking decisions."

Thousands Homeless after Orissa Violence

The International Herald-Tribune reports that violence in India's Orissa state has forced at least 3,000 people, most of them Christians, into government-run relief camps, according to government officials. Many are also living in the forest because of the violence that exploded after a prominent radical Hindu leader was killed. More than 1,000 Christians have had their homes torched, leaving at least 5,000 homeless. "We are supposed to take drastic action against whosoever indulges in violence" said R. P. Koche, the police chief in Kandhamal District. The local police force has been reinforced by 2,500 paramilitary troops, he said. The district magistrate, Dr. Krishna Kumar, said the situation was tense but under control, and that more then 200 people had been arrested. According to the Tribune Orissa state has a history of communal and ethnic clashes.
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Title: Maoists in India Say They Killed Hindu Leader
Post by: nChrist on September 05, 2008, 02:39:34 PM
Maoists in India Say They Killed Hindu Leader
Vishal Arora

NEW DELHI, September 1 (Compass Direct News) -- A Maoist group today claimed responsibility for killing Hindu extremist leader Laxmanananda Saraswati and four of his disciples in Orissa state on August 23, saying that fanatical Hindus' claims that Christians murdered him were "lies."

The violence that has claimed the lives of least 36 people, most of them Christians, and destroyed hundreds of churches and homes continued over the weekend as Hindu extremists continued to blame Christians for the killing of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (World Hindu Council or VHP) leader.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of India-Maoist, an extreme Marxist group banned by the Indian government, released a statement today saying that Sangh Parivar, the family of Hindu extremist groups led by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or RSS, have deliberately misled people about Saraswati's death.

"The Sangh Parivar leaders like Praveen Togadia have been trying to divert the people by uttering lies that it is not the Maoists but Christian organizations that had carried out the attack on the VHP leader," the Marxist group stated.

The statement said Saraswati was a "rabid anti-Christian ideologue and persecutor of innocent Christians who was responsible for the burning down of over 400 churches in Kandhamal district alone."

Saraswati, who had run a campaign against Christian missionaries for several decades in Orissa, was allegedly behind a spate of anti-Christian attacks in Kandhamal district last Christmas season. The violence lasted for more than a week beginning December 24, and killed at least four Christians and burned 730 houses and 95 churches.

The Maoist statement warned the VHP of "more such punishments if it continued violence against religious minorities in the country" and called for a ban on groups linked to the Sangh Parivar, such as the VHP, its youth wing Bajrang Dal, right-wing Hindu political party Shiv Sena and the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

On August 30 private news channel NDTV 24X7 quoted unnamed government sources as saying that their assessment was that Christians had no role in the killing of Saraswati, and that the probe was leading to Maoist culprits.

Christian leaders said that as a result of the violence more tha 50,000 Christians are living as refugees in jungles.

Fresh Attacks

According to the Evangelical Fellowship of India (EFI), today at least two churches and a motorbike were burned and a pastor was beaten in Koraput district.

The Orissa Missionary Movement Church and the Bible Mission Church were set ablaze by mobs in Jeypore town, according to EFI, and also in Jeypore a pastor of the Blessing Youth Mission was attacked.

The state government today said 543 houses had been burned in Kandhamal alone thus far, IANS reported. Although the number of incidents has come down compared with last week, fresh attacks were reported yesterday.

Indo-Asian News Service (IANS) reported today that the violence had spread to three more districts of Orissa.

"Security forces had been deployed in nine districts [of Orissa] since August 23, but policemen are now being deployed in an additional three districts," Inspector General of Police Pradeep Kapur told IANS.

Security forces had been deployed in the districts of Bolangir, Bargarh, Kandhamal, Gajapati, Ganjam, Koraput, Rayagada, Bhadrak and Kendrapada. Kapur, however, refused to tell the three additional districts where police personnel had been deployed.

Yesterday several churches and houses were burned in Bataguda and Parampanga areas of Kandhamal district, Boriguma area of Koraput district and in parts of Rayagada district, according to IANS.

The Hindu newspaper reported that eight prayer houses were damaged in Kundra area of Koraput district on Sunday. "Violence erupted in the district following a clash between two groups in Jeypore town on Saturday and five churches were damaged," the newspaper reported, adding that a curfew was still in force.

Although the violence began more than a week ago, police are still saying they are not able to reach interior villages of Kandhamal. The state government has now reportedly asked for additional central paramilitary forces to control the violence.

While many parts of Orissa remained under curfew today, over 13,000 people were reportedly living in relief centers set up by the state government in seven places in Kandhamal.

'Reconversions'


With violence continuing with little or no police protection, Christian leaders said many fearful believers have been forcibly "reconverted" to Hinduism.

According to The Indian Express, more than a hundred Christians "reconverted" to Hinduism in Kandhamal on Friday and Saturday (Aug. 29-30). "I have heard that reconversions are taking place and I am looking into it," Kandhamal Revenue Divisional Commissioner Satyabarat Sahoo told the newspaper.

A number of reconversions have reportedly taken place in Raikia, Baliguda, Barakhama and others areas of Kandhamal, the newspaper reported.

Dr. Sajan K. George, president of the Global Council of India Christians, told Compass that Hindu extremist groups are "reconverting" Christians by force.

"We have collected evidence and given it to authorities," he said. "However, the police and other state government authorities are not doing anything."

George led a sit-in protest with local Christians in front of the state legislative assembly building in state capital Bhubaneswar, and submitted a memorandum to the state governor on Saturday (Aug. 30).

Brahmachari Shankar Chaitanya, successor of the slain Saraswati, asserted that the conversions were "purely voluntary."

"If misguided people want to come back to Hinduism they will do so, and it is our duty to extend all necessary help and embrace them," Chaitanya told The Indian Express.

'Punish the Killers'

Christians noted that the violence by VHP extremists is in a state ruled by a coalition of Biju Janata Dal party and the BJP. 

A delegation comprising a noted filmmaker and Christians from various denominations today submitted a memorandum to the Indian President Pratibha Patil demanding action against the VHP and other groups for leading mobs to kill and attack Christians.

The delegation urged the president to invoke Article 355 of the constitution, which states that the federal government has a duty to protect states against external aggression and internal disturbance.

The delegation included film director Mahesh Bhatt; Dr. Abraham Mathai, vice chairman of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission; Dr. John Dayal, member of the National Integration Council of India; Mehmood Madani, member of Parliament; Archbishop Raphael Cheenath from Orissa; Delhi Archbishop Vincent Concessao; the Rev. Dr. Babu Joseph, spokesperson of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of India; Joseph Dias from the Catholic Secular Front; the Rev. Madhu Chandra of the All India Christian Council, and Jenis Francis of the Federation of Catholic Associations.

"More than 50,000 Christians are living as refugees following the violence in Orissa," Mathai told reporters. "All the political parties are sitting as mute spectators."

Christians make up 2.4 percent of the state's population, or 897,861 of the 36.7 million people.
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Title: Evangelical Leaders: Pregnancy Doesn't Derail Palin Support
Post by: nChrist on September 05, 2008, 02:41:18 PM
Evangelical Leaders: Pregnancy Doesn't Derail Palin Support
Adelle M. Banks


September 5, 2008

(RNS) -- Evangelical leaders say the announcement that GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin's teenage daughter is pregnant will not diminish their support for her candidacy.

Palin, a first-term governor of Alaska, issued a statement with her husband, Todd, saying that they are proud of their daughter Bristol's "decision to have her baby and even prouder to become grandparents."

Focus on the Family founder James Dobson issued a statement within hours of the Monday (Sept. 1) announcement, congratulating the Palins for choosing to continue the pregnancy of a 17-year-old.

"They should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances," he said.

Evangelical leaders have previously praised the governor for choosing to give birth to her fifth child, Trig, despite his diagnosis with Down syndrome.

Asked Tuesday if the family's announcement would dampen evangelicals' general support for McCain's vice presidential pick, Mathew Staver, dean of Liberty University School of Law, said "absolutely not."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said the governor's daughter is "following her mother and father's example of choosing life in the midst of a difficult situation."
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Title: Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 4, 2008
Post by: nChrist on September 05, 2008, 02:43:10 PM
Religion Today Summaries - Sept. 4, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Anglican Church, Vatican Condemn Orissa Violence
    * Haiti: Hurricane Season Slams Ministries
    * Political Sermons on Web Earn Tax Exemption Review
    * Relief Agencies Prepare for Still More Storms

 

Anglican Church, Vatican Condemn Orissa Violence

About 16,000 Christians have fled and at least 16 people have been killed in India's Orissa state, the Christian Post reports. The head of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, called on Christians to speak out. "I hope that Christians and people of faith around the world will make known their horror at this violence, their support for the rebuilding of lives and the churches, orphanages and schools destroyed, and for work towards future reconciliation," he said. Likewise, the Vatican's foreign minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, said the international community must demonstrate the same commitment to wiping out growing "Christianophobia" as to tackling anti-Semitism or Islamophobia. Violence between Hindu extremists and Christians has continued even after Maoists claimed responsibility for the death of militant, extremist Hindu leader blamed on Christians.

Haiti: Hurricane Season Slams Ministries

Mission News Network reports that Haiti had no time to recover from Hurricane Gustav before Hurricane Hanna struck on Tuesday, again causing massive flooding. Floods and mudslides from the storms have killed more than 100 people. Eva DeHart of For Haiti With Love told MNN that families are desperate for food, even standing outside the ministry's gates during Hanna's fury. Haiti was already enduring a food crisis before the storms hit, and the active hurricane season threatens to worsen the situation, as blocked roads inhibit food distribution. DeHart said, "Gonaives is totally flooded, and areas of Cap Haitien are starting to flood. Nobody is allowed out on the streets. It was food distribution day, but nobody is allowed out on the streets."

Political Sermons on Web Earn Tax Exemption Review

Sermons posted on the Internet may land politically-minded pastors in trouble if they're not careful, the New York Times reports. This year the Internal Revenue Service began actively watching the Internet for churches who violate their tax exempt status by supporting or opposing candidates from the pulpit. YouTube and Google, paired with the increased Web presence of churches, has made it easier for the IRS and watchdog groups to find pastors who perhaps thought only their congregations would hear the message. Several churches' tax exempt status is under review and may be revoked this year thanks to such monitoring. "The I.R.S. goes, and it's scouring the Internet looking for trouble," said Erik Stanley, senior legal counsel for a conservative Christian group called the Alliance Defense Fund, which defends clergy members accused of partisan activities. "It is our contention that in church it is the pastor who should determine what is said, not the I.R.S."

Relief Agencies Prepare for Still More Storms

Although Hurricane Gustav is gone, it's not over yet, ASSIST News Service reports. "Three more storms are coming on the heels of Gustav -- Hurricane Hannah is expected to strike as soon as Friday, followed by potential hurricanes Ike and Josephine. Significant flooding is expected throughout the region as all eyes remain on the levees," said Hal Donaldson, president of relief organization Convoy of Hope. "Gustav also caused flooding in some Florida locations, including Orlando and Sanford. In Louisiana, all parishes remain closed with roads blocked as 1.4 million people remain without power (estimated to be down another two to three weeks), and boil water orders are in effect in two parishes," Donaldson said. Mickey Caison, director of the SBC North American Mission Board's adult mobilization team told Baptist Press, "Reports are that evacuees are running out of money and some restaurants are running out of food -- especially along the I-20 corridor. So we've got to step up to help them at these peripheral evacuation centers."
________________________________________


Title: Christian Bookstore Owner Awaits Trial in China
Post by: nChrist on September 09, 2008, 06:39:14 AM
Christian Bookstore Owner Awaits Trial in China
Sarah Page


September 8, 2008

DUBLIN (CDN) -- Beijing Christian bookstore owner Shi Weihan is awaiting the outcome of an August 19 court appearance and may be back in court within 10 days, according to Compass sources.

Denied proper medication and diet for his diabetes, Shi is almost "unrecognizable" due to severe weight loss, according to family members.

Public Security Bureau (PSB) officers initially arrested Shi on November 28, charging him with "illegal business practices" after he allegedly published Christian literature without authorization for distribution to house churches. Court officials ordered his release on January 4, citing insufficient evidence. 

Officers arrested him again on March 19 and reportedly forced him to sign a "confession" convicting him of engaging in the printing and distribution of a large number of illegal publications. 

They also forced Shi's Antioch Eternal Life Church to close in June.

Shi's bookstore, located near the Olympic Village, continued to operate during the Games.

Secretive Legal Process

Initially the Beijing PSB denied having Shi in custody, with officials claiming they did not know his whereabouts. After Shi's attorney Zhang Xingshui applied pressure, officers finally admitted having him and allowed a single visit with his attorney.

They also labeled Shi a "dangerous religious element."

Shi's family and friends expected a trial would take place on June 19, the date that marked the end of three months of detention without charges. Chinese law prohibits the PSB from holding Chinese citizens for more than two months without formal charges, and Shi's family and friends thought the three-month mark might have been significant. (See Compass Direct News, "Christian Bookstore Owner Still Without Trial," June 20.)

No trial, however, took place on that day.

Authorities recently moved Shi from the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau back to the Haidian District Detention Center where he was held after his first arrest in November 2007.

Shi may have been held virtually "incommunicado" during the Games because of fears that he would use foreign connections to embarrass China during the event, one source who preferred to go unnamed told Compass. Shi has many foreign clients and friends.

"Perhaps the government regarded him as a potential organizer of public dissent, although many who know Shi affirm that he is a peaceful, patriotic and gentle man, not given to drawing attention to himself," the source added. 

Shi's store operated legally and sold only books for which he had obtained government permission. Under his Holy Spirit Trading Co., however, Shi printed Bibles and Christian literature without authorization for distribution to local house churches, according to Asia Times Online.

Shi's wife and two daughters are under great strain as a result of his arrest. Sources have asked for prayer that the family's "strength and faith will not falter."
_________________________________________


Title: Religion News Summaries - Sept. 8, 2008
Post by: nChrist on September 09, 2008, 06:41:38 AM
Religion News Summaries - Sept. 8, 2008
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
 
In today's edition:

    * Excessive Flooding Blocks Aid to Hurricane Victims in Haiti
    * Do Americans Really Know Who Evangelicals Are?
    * Iran: House Churches Growing in Iran Despite Persecution
    * Judge Rejects Challenge to N.Y. Gay Marriage Rules

 

Excessive Flooding Blocks Aid to Hurricane Victims in Haiti

After a flyover of the Gonaives area of Haiti, Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) has learned that flooding will temporarily prevent missionaries and relief workers from reaching victims stranded there, according to the ministry. Slammed by Tropical Depressions Fay and Gustav, and most recently Tropical Storm Hanna, the damage appears to be worse than the record devastation caused by Hurricane Jeanne in 2004. "There are about 110,000 people there, and the town is completely flooded from knee-deep to 10 feet of water," said Will White, MAF pilot. "A lot of the people have moved to the tops of their houses. The town is completely cut off by water." Although MAF operates several air strips in Haiti, Thursday was the first day MAF was permitted to begin transporting missionaries to aid storm victims in Haiti. White said the biggest threats now are waterborne illnesses due to lack of clean water.

Do Americans Really Know Who Evangelicals Are?

The Christian Post reports that the "evangelical" category is harder to define than one would think, even among those who describe themselves as part of the group. A new study by Ellison Research shows that 36 percent of average adult Americans have no idea what defines an "evangelical Christian." "I'm not sure; all I can think of is Billy Graham," said one 40 year-old woman from Florida who does not attend worship services, in the survey. Fourteen percent of those who described themselves as evangelical still couldn't give a definition. Richard Cizik, vice president for Governmental Affairs at the National Association of Evangelicals, admitted that the category does not have an exact definition.

House Churches Growing in Iran Despite Persecution

ASSIST News Service reports that a major crackdown against house church Christians is proceeding in Iran. And while the Islamic government could halt its nuclear program if it wanted to, it's finding it's incapable of reversing the rapid spread of Christianity there. Todd Nettleton of Voice of the Martyrs explains. "The people look around, they see the poverty, they see the discontent, they're not happy so they have questions. Why isn't it working out, we're doing it the Islamic way, why isn't our country great? So, they are ripe to hear a new way," Nettleton said. Less than one half of one percent of the Iranian population is Christian, said Gary Lane, CBN News International Correspondent. Nettleton c