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« Reply #30 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.
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« Reply #31 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.
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« Reply #32 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.
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« Reply #33 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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« Reply #34 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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« Reply #35 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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« Reply #36 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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« Reply #37 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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« Reply #38 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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« Reply #39 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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« Reply #40 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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« Reply #41 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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« Reply #42 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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« Reply #43 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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« Reply #44 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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