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nChrist
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« Reply #840 on: December 01, 2009, 08:58:26 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 23, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Christian Leaders Issue 'Call of Conscience'
    * Catholic Priest in Poor Health after Stroke in Prison
    * Anglican Leader, in Rome, Optimistic on Ecumenical Strains
    * Hand-Written Bible for Sale on eBay



Christian Leaders Issue 'Call of Conscience'

The Associated Press reports that more than 150 Christian leaders, including Chuck Colson, George Weigel and Robert George, gathered on Friday to release a joint statement on religious freedom and moral issues at stake. The 4,700-word document, called "The Manhattan Declaration: A Call of Christian Conscience," affirmed traditional stances on marriage, pro-life issues, and freedom of conscience. "We will not comply with any edict that purports to compel our institutions to participate in abortions, embryo-destructive research, assisted suicide and euthanasia or any other anti-life act; nor will we bend to any rule purporting to force us to bless immoral sexual partnerships, treat them as marriage or the equivalent or refrain from proclaiming the truth, as we know it, about morality and immorality and marriage and the family," the document reads.

Catholic Priest in Poor Health after Stroke in Prison

ASSIST News Service reports that a Catholic priest in Vietnam has suffered a stroke while serving a prison term for his human rights work. Father Nguyen Van Ly has been in solitary confinement and allowed limited family visits, while his health has deteriorated. Father Van Ly was arrested in March 2007 for his religious freedom and pro-democracy work under the guise of "disseminating anti-government propaganda" and was gagged and sentenced to 8 years in prison and 5 years house arrest without a chance to defend himself. Father Van Ly suffered a second stroke on November 14, 2009, as he was kneeling to pray, and as a result he is now paralyzed on the right side of his body.

Anglican Leader, in Rome, Optimistic on Ecumenical Strains

Religion News Service reports that speaking in Rome a month after the Vatican unveiled plans to  facilitate the conversion of conservative Anglicans to Catholicism, the spiritual leader of the worldwide Anglican Communion offered a moderately hopeful assessment of ecumenical relations between the two churches. The "ecumenical glass is genuinely half-full," Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams said Thursday (Nov. 19), at the conclusion of a 30-minute lecture at the Pontifical Gregorian University. Williams stressed the "theological convergence" on major doctrinal questions accomplished by Anglican-Catholic dialogue during the last four decades. He characterized areas of continued controversy, including disagreements over the ordination of women, as "second-order issues."

Hand-Written Bible for Sale on eBay

Religion News Service reports that after nine months and 22,579 miles on the road, Zondervan's handwritten Bible arrived back home with verses inscribed by 31,173 people. Now, one of only two copies of the three-volume, 2,200 page leather-bound Bible is on the eBay auction block, Zondervan announced Thursday (Nov. 19). Interested bidders can visit Zondervan's eBay store to make an offer. Proceeds go to Biblica, a Colorado Springs, Colo.-based organization formerly known as the International Bible Society which translates and distributes Bibles. The auction ends at 11:11 a.m. Nov. 22. The only other handwritten copy has been offered to The Smithsonian Institution. The retail version hits store shelves Dec. 1, or can be purchased online at bibleacrossamerica.com.
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« Reply #841 on: December 01, 2009, 08:59:39 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 24, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Americans Attribute Bible's Verses on Poverty to Celebrities
    * Kennedy Discouraged From Communion by Bishop
    * Pakistan: Christian Janitor Died Saving Muslim Students
    * Arizona Youth Urges Thousands to Join Him for World AIDS Day



Americans Attribute Bible's Verses on Poverty to Celebrities

American Bible Society reports that Americans are confusing President Barack Obama's messages of hope with quotes from the Bible. A survey released today found 54 percent of U.S. adults attributed a Bible verse about caring for the poor and oppressed to celebrities, politicians, and others including Oprah, Bono, and Angelina Jolie rather than the Bible.  Obama received the highest percentage of attributions. The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of the American Bible Society, found a quarter of U.S. adults attributed the Old Testament verse "You must defend those who are helpless and have no hope.  Be fair and give justice to the poor and homeless" to either Obama or the Dalai Lama.  Only 13 percent correctly identified the source as the Bible. Next week the American Bible Society will release its new "Poverty and Justice Bible", which highlights verses pertaining to issues of poverty and injustice.

Kennedy Discouraged From Communion by Bishop

The New York Times reports that Representative Patrick J. Kennedy caused a stir on Sunday when he accused his bishop of refusing to serve him communion. Bishop Thomas J. Tobin, however, says the "instruction" was only a request. Kennedy said the bishop "instructed me not to take communion and said that he has instructed the diocesan priests not to give me communion," according to The Providence Journal. Kennedy, the latest member of the famous Kennedy family to serve in Congress, said the injunction was due to his stance on abortion. In a statement Sunday, Tobin said the request was made in a private letter in February 2007. "In light of the church's clear teaching, and your consistent actions," the letter said, "I believe it is inappropriate for you to be receiving holy communion and I now ask respectfully that you refrain from doing so."

Pakistan: Christian Janitor Died Saving Muslim Students

CNN reports that a Pakistani school is revering their Christian janitor as a hero after he died preventing a suicide bomber into the girls' school cafeteria. On Oct. 20, two suicide bomber's tried to enter Islamabad's International Islamic University, but the one targeting the women's side of campus met Pervaiz Masih, the school's new janitor. Masih stopped the bomber after he shot the guard on duty, arguing with the bomber when he tried to proceed. The bomber then self-detonated, killing himself, Masih, and three girls - far fewer than intended. "Between 300 to 400 girls were sitting in there," said Professor Fateh Muhammad Malik, the rector of the university. "Despite being a Christian, [Pervez Masih] sacrificed his life to save the Muslim girls." Masih's family, who depended on his $60 a month job, had to borrow money to bury him.

Arizona Youth Urges Thousands to Join Him for World AIDS Day

Christian Newswire reports that thousands will shoot free throws next week as part of Hoops of Hope, an HIV/AIDS relief group. Perhaps no one, however, will shoot more hoops for the cause than its founder, 15-year old Austin Gutwein from Mesa, Arizona. The teen has traveled to four continents, met thousands of supporters and has helped raise more than $1.6 million to fight the global spread of HIV/AIDS with World Vision, an international relief and development organization. The premise - $1 for each basket - has helped build schools and medical clinics in Zambia. Next year, Austin will be part of a nationwide campaign challenging Americans to shoot 15 million free throws, representing one for every child left orphaned by HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is Tuesday, Dec. 1.
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« Reply #842 on: December 01, 2009, 09:01:01 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 25, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Worldwide Poll Finds Strong Support for Right to Criticize Religion
    * Heavy Fines, Bans Levied on Uzbek Baptists
    * Religion-Based Hate Crimes Highest Since 2001
    * Pope Meets with Artists, Filmmakers for Sacred Art


Worldwide Poll Finds Strong Support for Right to Criticize Religion

The Christian Post reports that countries in the Western Hemisphere overwhelmingly favor the right to criticize religions, while strong Muslim majority countries were more likely to favor restrictions. Of the 18,000 people surveyed, 57 percent agreed that "people should be allowed to publicly criticize religion because people should have freedom of speech." A full third of those surveyed, however, said government should have the right "to fine or imprison people who publicly criticize a religion because such criticism could defame the religion." In the United States, 89 percent said public criticism should be allowed, the highest of any country surveyed. Egypt most fully supports the counter position, with 71 percent agreeing that religion should not be criticized.

Heavy Fines, Bans Levied on Uzbek Baptists

Baptist Press reports that a court in Uzbekistan has effectively removed three leaders of the country's Baptist Union on fabricated charges of tax evasion and illegally teaching religion to children. Pavel Peichev, Yelena Kurbatova and Dmitri Pitirimov each were fined the equivalent of 260 times the monthly minimum wage and were banned from all administrative and financial activity for three years. The court also ruled the Baptist Union will have to pay 107 months in unpaid taxes on alleged profit from Joy Baptist Children's Camp operations. The children's camp is held on recreational property owned by the Baptist Union for their adult members and their children. The three were convicted even though some of the parents involved denied their children were forced to listen to religious teaching. "Despite the fact that it was proven in the court the whole case was fabricated, the judge still went ahead and made a decision against us," Pitrimov said.

Religion-Based Hate Crimes Highest Since 2001

Religion News Service reports that hate crime incidents targeting people based on their religion were at their highest frequency last year since 2001, according to a new report. The report, compiled by the Anti-Defamation League from FBI data, found 1,519 religious hate crimes in 2008, accounting for about 20 percent of all bias crimes. It was an increase from 2007, when 1,400 crimes of religious bias were reported. The number of crimes targeting Jews or Jewish institutions also increased in 2008. There were 1,013 hate crimes against Jews last year, accounting for about two-thirds of all religious bias crimes. It was the largest number of crimes against Jews since 2001. Overall, hate crimes rose slightly in 2008, with participating agencies reporting 7,783 bias crimes. Racial bias accounted for about half of all those reported, with attacks aimed at ethnicity and sexual orientation accounting for much of the balance.

Pope Meets with Artists, Filmmakers for Sacred Art

Catholic News Service reports that Pope Benedict XVI met with artists, filmmakers and actors this week to discuss the possibility of modern art in the service of the Church. Appropriately held at the Sistine Chapel, the pope said the meeting was "my invitation to friendship, dialogue and cooperation" that could lead to new works of sacred art in modern styles. Artists said such a partnership lies in the Church's hands. "The artist is really at the service of society, but to serve you have to be asked," said John David Mooney, a sculptor and installation artist from Chicago. "I think that there has just been no communication between the church and the artists, that's the problem." The pope reported on the meetings Nov. 21, asking artists to "speak to the heart of humanity" with works of beauty.
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« Reply #843 on: December 01, 2009, 09:02:29 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 26, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * 16 Colombian Christians Kidnapped, Told to Recant
    * Episcopal Group Denounces Anti-Gay Law in Uganda
    * OM Ministry Ship to End Service
    * Megachurch Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty Dies at Age 57



16 Colombian Christians Kidnapped, Told to Recant

Mission News Network reports that 16 Christians in Columbia have been kidnapped and told to recant their faith if they want to be released. The Christians, who are members of Columbia's Kogui tribe, were captured by the Kogui governor after he called them to a community meeting. The governor reportedly wants to eliminate the 120 Christians from the rest of the 11,000-member tribe. The abducted Christians include men, women and infants, two of whom are seriously ill. Their captors have refused to let them seek medical attention and continue to hold them in a remote location. According to Voice of the Martyrs Canada, the largest inhibitors of religious freedom in Columbia are guerrilla and criminal groups. They often target Christian leaders who actively oppose corruption and the drug trade, trying to cut off their influence.

Episcopal Group Denounces Anti-Gay Law in Uganda

Religion News Service reports that a U.S.-based group that includes several Episcopal bishops is challenging Anglican leaders to denounce a proposed bill in Uganda that would severely criminalize homosexuality. "The Anglican Communion has committed itself to the pastoral care of gay and lesbian people," said the Rev. Lowell Grisham, co-convener of the Chicago Consultation. "At a time like this, we implore its leaders to speak out." The Chicago Consultation, which includes several Episcopal bishops on its steering committee, is dedicated to the "full inclusion" of gay, lesbian, transgender and bi-sexual individuals in the Anglican Communion. Numerous human rights groups have denounced the proposed bill, which was introduced last month (Oct.). The bill would punish "aggravated homosexuality" by death and homosexual contact with life in prison, while outlawing groups that work with gays and lesbians.

OM Ministry Ship to End Service

Christian Today reports that the world's oldest ocean-going vessel will be decommissioned from Operation Mobilisation (OM) at the end of the year. The Duolos, which launched in 1914 and joined OM in 1977, would cost more than $16 million of work before its certificates would be renewed. OM has used the ship, whose name means "servant" in Greek, to carry Gospel and educational resources to more than 100 countries. Fully staffed, the ship carried an all-volunteer crew of 300 people. OM said it "remained committed to operating a two-ship ministry" and is looking into the short-term hire of another vessel while a replacement for Doulos is sought.

Megachurch Pastor Billy Joe Daugherty Dies at Age 57

The Christian Post reports that charismatic megachurch pastor Billy Joe Daugherty has lost his battle with cancer just one month after his diagnosis. His church, the 17,000-member Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Okla., spun off numerous Bible schools in 93 countries. "It was a peaceful passing with his family and loved ones by his side," church leaders announced on Sunday. "We are sad to lose the presence of our pastor, shepherd, father, and brother. We are thankful, however, for his life, love, and influence on the individuals and ministries he inspired for the last 30 years," they added. Daugherty's ministry started 911 Bible schools. He also served as interim president of Oral Roberts University in 2007. He was 57 years old.
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« Reply #844 on: December 01, 2009, 09:03:36 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 27, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * In China, Church Defies Police to Worship
    * Hindu Extremists Afraid of Church Growth in India
    * U.S. Grants Chinese Rights Lawyer's Family Political Asylum
    * HIV Stigma Still Strong, Says Tearfund



In China, Church Defies Police to Worship

Christian Newswire reports that over 500 dedicated church members assembled outdoors to hold the two scheduled morning worship services last Sunday even though their pastors and deacons were in police custody. Wanbang church pastors Cui Quan, Cui Longguo, Liu Quanqin, and Huang Yun were detained for over 8 hours and interrogated for allegedly "engaging in illegal organization and activities." Two church deacons, Piao Longyi and Shi Weidong, were detained over Saturday night to prevent them from leading worship. On Sunday, church members met anyway. Police tried to intimidate members and prevent them from worshipping, but they stood their ground and refused to stop singing. Shanghai PSB officers have interrogated and detained many of the 2,000 members of Wanbang Missionary Church, but the church continues to meet.

Hindu Extremists Afraid of Church Growth in India

Mission News Network reports that Hindu extremist groups have confirmed that they are targeting Christians because of the large number of Hindus converting to Christianity. Dave Stravers, president of Mission India in Grand Rapids, Mich., said, "We [received] a power point presentation from a Hindu extremist group warning people in the state of Karnataka that the Christians are growing so fast that they're worried that the state might actually become a majority Christian state." According to Stavers, the quick proliferation of churches is changing the Indian landscape. "It used to be when you went through the villages, you saw only temples. But now you're seeing churches, and the temples are being closed. It's really confirming our experience that there is a powerful movement of Christ in India."

U.S. Grants Chinese Rights Lawyer's Family Political Asylum

ASSIST News Service reports that the family of imprisoned Chinese lawyer have finally won political asylum in the U.S. Human rights attorney Guo Feixiong's wife, Zhang Qing, and two children, Yang Tiance and Yang Tianjiao, escaped China in February. "Guo Feixiong is considered by many to be China's 'Number Two' legal advocate, second only to human rights attorney Gao Zhisheng," said a ChinaAid spokesperson. Guo has been imprisoned since his 2006 arrest, and is currently serving a 5-year sentence in Meizhou Prison, Guangdong. Guo's wife, Zhang Qing, became a political target herself beginning in 2007, when she issued ten open letters appealing for Guo Feixiong's release to American and Chinese leaders. By the winter of 2008, the Guo family had come under close surveillance and harassment by Chinese police, forcing them to seek asylum outside the country.

HIV Stigma Still Strong, Says Tearfund

Christian Today reports that the stigma that still surrounds HIV/AIDS keeps many people from seeking treatment, even when offered through a church. In the United Kingdom, the number of people living with HIV has doubled since 2000 to 73,000. According to the World Health Organization and the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, about 33.4 million people worldwide live with the virus. "The church at its best can be a source of great hope and support to people living with or affected by HIV," relief group Tearfund said in a report. "In our work across the world, day in, day out we see church volunteers caring for orphans, the sick and bereaved, helping people get access to treatment and crucially, challenging stigma... "But ignorance and prejudice remain within the church and until these harmful attitudes are completely let go of, the church's efforts will be undermined."
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« Reply #845 on: December 01, 2009, 09:04:47 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Nov. 30, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Pakistani Christian on Run from Taliban Death Threat
    * Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-up in Muslim Riots
    * Red Kettle Campaign Expands Beyond Pocket Change
    * China Releases Uyghur Church Leader from Prison



Pakistani Christian on Run from Taliban Death Threat

Compass Direct News reports that a young Christian man is in hiding in Pakistan as Taliban militants seek to kill him for "blasphemy." In February Jehanzaib Asher, 22, was working in a barbershop his family jointly owns with his cousin in Wana, South Waziristan, when the Islamic militants showed up to try to convert him to Islam. It was not the first time the Taliban's Noor Hassan had delivered strident sermons to him and his relatives. This time, Asher defended Christianity by citing verses from the Bible, leading Hassan and another Islamic militant viciously beat him - breaking his left leg and some ribs and crippling his left hand. The Taliban militants began spreading the word to local residents that Asher and his cousin Christopher Masih had blasphemed Muhammad. His picture was posted at check-points in an attempt to help the Taliban and other Islamists identify and kill him. Earlier this month, Asher told Compass, he disguised himself as a Muslim with a long beard and left Wana.

Egyptian State Security Accused of Cover-up in Muslim Riots

ASSIST News Service reports that Egyptian State Security has intensified its pressure on the Coptic Church and victims of last week's violence, hoping to force their acceptance of extrajudicial reconciliation. Dozens of Coptic shops and businesses were vandalized and looted by a Muslim mob in Farshoot and neighboring towns last week, but police have allegedly been ordered not to issue reports on the violence. Bishop Kirollos of the Nag Hammadi Diocese said the damage will cost U.S. $1 million to repair. "There will be no reconciliation before full financial compensation has been paid to the Coptic victims, and the criminals are brought to justice, so that safety and security can be restored to the district," he said.

Red Kettle Campaign Expands Beyond Pocket Change

The Christian Post reports that The Salvation Army's signature campaign is now letting people donate plastic in 120 cities. The 118th Red Kettle Christmas campaign added credit card readers to more than 300 kettle sites and marketed virtual red kettles on various corporate and individual websites, including Facebook. "These electronic payment machines let everyone get into the charitable Christmas spirit even if they don't have quarters, dimes and nickels," said Major George Hood, The Salvation Army's National Community Relations and Development Secretary. The move acknowledges that fewer people are paying for Christmas with cash. "Our local units are taking the initiative to meet donors wherever they are, and however they would choose to give, whether that be with a credit card, online, or in our traditional Red Kettles," he added.

China Releases Uyghur Church Leader from Prison

Compass Direct News reports that an Uyghur Christian in China's troubled Xinjiang region was released last week after serving two years in a labor camp for alleged "illegal proselytizing" and "leaking state secrets." Authorities had called for a 10-15 year prison sentence for house church leader Osman Imin (Wusiman Yaming in Chinese) but significantly reduced the term following international media attention. An outspoken leader of the Uyghur church in the northwestern region of China, Osman was first arrested in 2004 and kept at a detention center in Hotan, southern Xinjiang. Local sources said his arrest was almost certainly related to his church work. Authorities eventually moved him to the labor camp outside Kashgar. While in prison Osman was forced to work 12 to 15 hours a day, and his health quickly deteriorated. He was reportedly suffering malnutrition throughout his confinement.
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« Reply #846 on: December 01, 2009, 09:05:53 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 1, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * AIDS Groups Fight 'Great Lie' in Zimbabwe
    * Handwritten Bible Sells for $15,000
    * 'Spirit of Christmas' Tour Stops in Cambodia
    * South Asia Missionary Still in Jail Months Later



AIDS Groups Fight 'Great Lie' in Zimbabwe

Mission News Network reports that AIDS organizations are still fighting stigma and misinformation worldwide as they remember World AIDS Day 2009. In Zimbabwe, Mark Clark with The Evangelical Alliance Mission (TEAM) says one their primary challenges remains "the Great Lie." "Satan has propagated a lie not only in Zimbabwe, but it's spreading all through Africa: the way to cure yourself of AIDS is to have sexual relations with a virgin," he says. These virgins are often no more than young girls, who are raped and infected. The stigma facing anyone with HIV/AIDS then compounds the problem. "The tendency is to see someone in that situation and think, 'Oh, they're getting what they deserve; they've sinned, therefore this is a result of sin'," Clark said. In Zimbabwe, over 4 million people live with AIDS.

Handwritten Bible Sells for $15,000

Religion News Service reports that the first handwritten copy of the New International Version Bible sold on eBay last weekend for more than $15,000. Zondervan's handwritten Bible Across America project marked the 30th anniversary of the popular New International Version translation. Zondervan went on a nine-month tour across the country to give people a chance to write one verse of the Bible for the edition. One of the two original manuscripts was sold on eBay for $15,407.53. Proceeds from the eBay sale will go to Biblica, the company that created from the merger between the International Bible Society and Christian distributor Send the Light, to support its global Bible translation and distribution efforts.

'Spirit of Christmas' Tour Stops in Cambodia

Christian Newswire reports that World Vision's "Spirit of Christmas" tour made its latest stop in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, this week. The month-long tour features interviews and stories with children and families in the United States, Ecuador, Cambodia, Zambia and Ethiopia. "So far, we've traveled from the neighborhoods of New York City to the mountains of Ecuador to see if we can find the 'true spirit of Christmas' around the world," said Devin Hermanson, campaign manager for World Vision's "Spirit of Christmas" tour. "What we've found so far is that people around the world are still helping their neighbor in need." World Vision's team will focus on Cambodia's sex-trafficking industry and meet girls rescued from slavery. About 2 million children -- most of them girls -- are enslaved in the global sex trade today.

South Asia Missionary Still in Jail Months Later

ASSIST News Service reports that months after police arrested him on June 9, Gospel for Asia-supported pastor Akash Rao remains in jail. He was one of 10 people arrested under suspicion of being connected with a Maoist extremist group that terrorizes the area where he serves. Because police have accused Akash of being involved with the Maoists, officials are in no hurry to release him. For five years, Akash has served in this place of political unrest, and he led a congregation of 25 believers before his arrest. Another GFA-supported pastor has been called in to serve the church, and it remains active. This area is now relatively peaceful since it is under police patrol and most of the suspected Maoists are in jail.
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« Reply #847 on: December 03, 2009, 12:26:41 AM »

'Invisible Population' Still Lacks Access to HIV/AIDS Care
Robert Wayne


December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day 2009 comes with rising hope in the fight against HIV/AIDS, but the battle is far from over among the "invisible population."

This demographic - children born with HIV - represents those who acquire the disease through no fault of their own, yet is often overlooked in AIDS education and resource allocation. The latest United Nations study reports that the number of new HIV infections has decreased 17 percent worldwide over the past eight years, but that figure may be misleading. About 2 million children under the age of 15 live with HIV, about 90 percent of whom acquired the virus from their mother.

In regions of sub-Saharan Africa, the killer remains very much on the loose. Especially in rural areas, HIV-infected mothers often pass the disease to their babies. Only one in three HIV-positive pregnant women receives treatment from Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs.

"Most people think of HIV as primarily a sexually-transmitted disease, which it is. But there is a whole invisible population of babies being born with it because the moms have it," said Kristie Urich, coordinator of the World Vision U.S. World AIDS Day task force. "Moms don't intend to pass it to their children. It just happens."

Many HIV-positive mothers are not being adequately educated about the dangers or else they lack the resources to thwart the disease. Their babies can acquire the virus in utero, during the birth process or through breast feeding, Urich said.

In many regions, such as sub-Saharan Africa, cultural barriers and stigma stand between women, their children, and access to life-saving AIDS resources.

"It's an issue of access and women's rights. It's a global issue, not just a cultural issue," said Bwalya Melu, who has worked with World Vision for nearly 20 years.

"According to the U.N., the rates of infection are going down, which is good. But in what category?" he said. "Those not infected are mostly men. Last year's report was that a lot of women, and those under age 16, were not getting access (to AIDS education and necessary anti-viral drugs)."

The disease can strike whole families in some places, as in Princess Kasune Zulu's case. The native Zambian lost her younger sister in 1986 to AIDS.

"She did not make it to her second birthday because she was born with HIV, so this is very personal to me," said Zulu, who speaks on behalf of World Vision as an AIDS activist in Chicago.

The disease took another toll Zulu's mother died of AIDS in 1993 and her father died from the disease four months later. Then, in 1997 she tested HIV-positive. Her husband at the time - the couple no longer are together - had been married twice before, and both of his former wives died of AIDS.

Zulu was not expected to live past six months, but continues to fight the disease more than a decade later. Her book on the subject, "Why We Are Princess," is due out in December.

"Every day 740 children die because of AIDS, one every two minutes, and without treatment more than half will die before their second birthday," Zulu said. "So this (PMTCT) is critical, because the transfer of the virus is preventable. With proper care and treatment they don't have to be born with HIV and develop AIDS."

"It costs less than $4 to prevent mother-to-child transmission," Zulu said. "This should not still be happening in 2010."

World Vision is coordinating efforts to increase awareness of Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) programs while also encouraging Americans to call their congressmen to advocate that promised government funding actually happens.

"The global AIDS bill last year was re-approved to $37 billion, but it hasn't been fully funded," Urich said. "On paper it's supposed to happen, but a lot of things get cut in the legislative process."

World Vision also intends to work toward funneling funds toward Zambia, which is one of the African nations where PMTCT needs the most support. The goal is to make prevention efforts more of a priority.

A new child and maternal health study by World Vision shows that, despite the proven low cost and effectiveness of preventive health efforts, many of the world's poorest countries with a high incidence of HIV still fail to emphasize these resources with adequate funding in national health budgets. This includes basic prenatal and postnatal care for pregnant women, which is essential in order to test mothers for HIV and begin antiretroviral therapy cuts the risk of mother-to-child transmission to virtually zero. Even before these interventions, prevention often must start with community-level education to fight the stigma of HIV and help women understand the importance of prenatal care.

World Vision is not the only agency serving as an advocate for the education of pregnant mothers.

Bob Carter and his wife, Hope, have served as medical missionaries in Kenya and Zambia since 1985. The couple, stationed in a rural setting about an hour west of Nairobi, Kenya, work with Serving in Mission's Hope for AIDS program.

Carter has seen multiple tragedies caused by AIDS. One encounter in Nairobi's notorious Kibera slum:

"She was a 34-year-old HIV widow with four children ages 15, 12, 8 and 3 months. When her husband had died six years previously, his family had chased her away and she had returned to her own family. When she was diagnosed with HIV a year later, her own family drove her out. Eventually, the woman met a man who befriended her and helped pay for her living and medical expenses. She became dependent on his assistance. She also became pregnant. And that was the last she saw of him."

"Unfortunately, this poor widow is not alone," Carter said. "There are thousands more like her just in Kibera.  What answer do the people of Jesus Christ have for her, and for the thousands of others like her?"

But there is hope.

Carter pointed to a health statistic called "Life Expectancy at Birth." In 1960 the life expectancy in Kenya was 43 years.  It increased gradually and continually over the next 30 years until it reached 58 years in 1990.  Then the effect of AIDS began to be felt.  An increase in deaths at younger ages, particularly infants, resulted in a dramatically reduced life expectancy, which declined to 48 years by 2005.

At this point, PMTCT efforts had started to be introduced widely across Kenya, particularly in government facilities but also many if not most church-run health institutions. By 2009 the lost years have been regained and the life expectancy is now back up to 58 years.

"This is best explained by a substantial reduction in the number of babies being born with HIV and a corresponding drop in infant mortality," Carter said. "This is a real sign of hope -- a sign that PMTCT, at least, is working."
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« Reply #848 on: December 03, 2009, 12:27:48 AM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 2, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Eritrea's Human Rights Record Spotlighted at UN
    * Saddleback Church Offers HIV Testing on World AIDS Day
    * Canadian Judge: Breakaway Churches Must Relinquish Property
    * Sudanese Church Leaders: Peace Process at Critical Point



Eritrea's Human Rights Record Spotlighted at UN

Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports that states from every continent expressed concern Monday at the extent of human rights violations taking place in Eritrea. Appearing before the Human Rights Council, the Eritrean delegation faced broad-ranging, and yet consistent, questioning of their human rights record. Statements by member states repeatedly expressed concern at the ongoing use of torture, arbitrary and indefinite detention, the suppression of press freedom and freedom of religion and belief among other accusations. Eritrea's representative, Dr. Girmai Abraham, confessed to being "overwhelmed" by the number of questions he had received, and responded to calls for open access to Eritrea with a guarded conditional acceptance. However, in an astonishing admission, he indicated that an independent press was incompatible with Eritrean culture.

Saddleback Church Offers HIV Testing on World AIDS Day

Saddleback Church in Southern California hosted a variety of activities yesterday to remember World AIDS Day, including live online chats, free HIV testing and "An Evening of Hope" with Pastor Rick and Kay Warren. "HIV/AIDS is still the greatest humanitarian crisis of all time, killing millions every year and leaving millions of orphaned and vulnerable children behind," said Kay Warren. "In the middle of this tragedy, Christians have the opportunity to make the love of our Savior real to anyone infected or affected by HIV and AIDS." The church provided free, confidential HIV testing throughout the day. An estimated 300,000 to 400,000 people in the U.S. are unaware they are HIV positive.

Canadian Judge: Breakaway Churches Must Relinquish Property

Religion News Service reports that a British Columbia judge has ruled in favor of a Canadian Anglican diocese in a legal battle with conservative dissidents. The Nov. 25 decision mirrors similar court decisions in the U.S. and may set a precedent as other groups attempt to secede with property assets. Many have left the Anglican Church of Canada in a global conflict over homosexuality and interpretation of Scripture. Justice Stephen Kelleher of the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled the Vancouver-based Diocese of New Westminster may keep possession of four church properties worth a combined $20 million ($18.7 million US). One of the churches, St. John's Shaughnessy, is widely acknowledged to be the largest Anglican parish in the country. The churches have joined a breakaway group called the Anglican Network in Canada, which is affiliated with the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone of South America.

Sudanese Church Leaders: Peace Process at Critical Point

Christian Today reports that peace is Sudan may be fading, according to leaders of the Episcopal Church of the Sudan (ECS). The war-torn country's peace agreement faces the monumental challenge of elections in five months, sparking contention within the government and allowing other violence to slip by. Southern Sudan also faces the threat of famine without seasonal rains. "We appeal to our partners to assist us, the Church, in providing for the physical as well as the spiritual needs of our people, and pledge to use all such support, as well as support from the Sudanese Christians, for the well-being of those facing hunger this Advent and Christmas season," said the ECS Provincial Standing Committee following the conclusion of its five-day conference last week.
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« Reply #849 on: December 04, 2009, 05:03:37 PM »

Germany's Highest Court Rules against Sunday Shopping
Niels Sorrells


December 3, 2009

BERLIN (RNS) -- Constitutional provisions that declare Sunday a day of rest mean German merchants will have to significantly rein in the number of days they are open for business, Germany's highest court ruled Tuesday (Dec. 1).

The ruling was prompted by protests from Catholic and Protestant churches in Berlin over laws enacted in 2006 that gave German states greater freedoms in determining store opening hours.

The Berlin city-state was one of the most enthusiastic adopters of the policy, allowing stores to operate for 10 Sundays a year, including the four Sundays of Advent leading up to the Christmas holiday. Other states had opted for fewer shopping Sundays; heavily Catholic Bavaria had opted for none.

In its ruling, the German Constitutional Court noted that the guarantee of Sunday as a day of rest was not only based in Christian tradition, but also served a vital societal function by giving workers a day off and giving families more chances to spend time together.

"A simple economic interest in profits by merchants and a general interest in shopping by potential customers are generally not enough to justify exceptions to the clear constitutional protections for breaks from work and the possibility of spiritual enlightenment on Sundays and holidays," the court said.

The Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany welcomed the decision, noting that it was a blow against commerce and for Sunday as a day of rest.

However, the court ruling does not entirely ban Sunday store openings. The ruling laid out prescriptions for Berlin to open stores on four Sundays a year, including two Advent Sundays, albeit with shorter hours. Additionally, Advent Sunday shopping will be allowed to continue for the remaining three Advent Sundays of 2009.

The Constitutional Court is the highest judicial body in Germany.

Lawmakers could try to craft new legislation that does not contradict the constitutional protections.
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« Reply #850 on: December 04, 2009, 05:04:38 PM »

Flu Fears Worry Some at the Communion Rail
Solange de Santis


December 4, 2009

(RNS) -- Hand sanitizer in the pews. A cautionary bow rather than a warm handshake during the Sign of Peace. Empty holy water fonts.

Increased absences from religious classes.

The H1N1 flu pandemic is shaking up religious communities and disrupting worship life. But when does caution veer into paranoia, and what is lost when faith becomes fear?

With H1N1 flu being declared a national emergency, religious organizations are issuing guidelines for worship practices and even personal interaction during liturgy. In a reversal of the usual open invitation, some faith communities are asking those who don't feel well to stay home.

"I have skipped church when the kids were sick," said Ruth Wynja Gibbons of Whitinsville, Mass., whose 6-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter came down with bad colds. As it turned out, the kids didn't contract H1N1, or swine flu, but Gibbons has noticed a drop in the number of children in Sunday school at Pleasant Street Christian Reformed Church.

At her church's Sunday service, congregants are being advised that they need not shake hands when the time comes to greet fellow worshippers. "I personally just greet people verbally, not shake hands,"

she said. "I think it's a good precaution, that people not spread illnesses this time of year. It's better to be safe than sorry."

At Gibbons' church, Communion wine is traditionally passed in individual, disposable cups, but in some denominations, congregants may dip the Communion wafer or bread in wine (known as intinction) or sip from a common cup. Advice varies -- some churches have banned the common cup or stopped serving wine altogether since sipping from a shared cup may be a path to sickness.

At Or Shalom Jewish Community in San Francisco, a Reconstructionist congregation, touching is a regular part of worship. "Usually everyone touches the challah (bread) during Shabbat services and we usually break it as a group," noted administrator Shari Carruthers.

Carruthers said worshippers are being careful to wash their hands before the ritual prayer over the bread. Some are also refraining from sharing the Kiddush cup, a goblet of wine that is passed around after a blessing at the Sabbath meal.

Muslims already incorporate ritual hand-washing, known as wudu, before prayer services, but a notice at the Muslim Community Center in Chicago also advises members that they may wish "salaam," (peace) to each other verbally and need not shake hands.

Concern about passing along infections is causing changes in style among some clergy. Laurie Wozniak, a parishioner at Trinity Episcopal Church in Buffalo, N.Y., noted that her pastor, the Rev. Cam Miller, is normally a hug-and-shake-hands kind of guy. When he wasn't feeling up to par recently, he refrained even from meeting parishioners at the door, she said.

"He did not celebrate the Eucharist; he had an associate priest do it," she said. "He ventured no closer (to the congregation) than the pulpit. He explained ... it was to make sure he was not communicating any germs. He stayed in the high altar area, so he could still be there and function."

Miller said he had upper respiratory symptoms, but didn't have a definitive diagnosis. "My biggest concern was not being a distraction to other people," he said.

An Italian inventor has come up with a dispenser that releases a few drops of holy water when worshippers pass their hands under it, to avoid the communal holy water basin. But all these precautions have some people wondering if an essential part of a faith community is getting lost.

Pamela Dempsey DeVries, who attends Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina, N.C., has kept her three children out of services, though they continue to attend Sunday School. As caretakers of the family, she said, women are bearing the brunt of the flu scare.

At worship, she keeps hand sanitizer in her purse and now is "more reserved" in greeting other parishioners, and worries that she may seem less friendly to newcomers.

"It's very Southern," she said. "Everyone gets out of their pew, walks all over the church. It's a chance to welcome new people or find your friends, and if you know people, give them a kiss or hug."

The Rev. Tim Schenck, rector of St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church in Hingham, Mass., is taking all the usual precautions and found himself hurriedly writing a swine flu policy for his church after a parishioner's child came down with H1N1. But he also mourns the emphasis on avoiding human touch.

"You don't want to take this lightly or minimize it, but sacramental touch is being lost and that can't be replaced by being washed in Purell. Sacramental touch is an outward and visible sign of God's presence. It's human interaction and communication at its deepest level," he said.

As a priest, he said, "the Communion rail is a place of great joy -- being able to feed people with the body of Christ."

"It's a shame that fear is being brought into the sanctuary," he said, "because you would hope that the sanctuary is a place where there is no fear."
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« Reply #851 on: December 04, 2009, 05:05:40 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 3, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * CSW Trip to Burma Finds Deepening Humanitarian Crisis
    * Indonesian Theology Students Withstand Threats, Illness
    * Canadian Bishops Warn against Human Trafficking at Winter Olympics
    * Teen Convert, Muslim Parents to Meet, Talk About Religion



CSW Trip to Burma Finds Deepening Humanitarian Crisis

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that chronic food shortages and continuing, severe human rights violations are taking place in Chin and Kachin states in Burma. A recent fact-finding visit by CSW allegedly found that some aid founds have been dispensed as loans, instead of aid, to malnourished villagers, repayable at 200 per cent interest. Chin state has been devastated over the last two years by a chronic food shortgage caused by the flowering of bamboo and the subsequent plagues of rats, which have destroyed crops. The CSW delegation, which also met with Kachin refugees, received evidence from Kachin and Chin states of religious persecution, forced labour and attempted 'cultural genocide'.

Indonesian Theology Students Withstand Threats, Illness

Compass Direct News reports that some 1,000 seminary students are resisting efforts to evict them from the former municipal building of West Jakarta. The students took refuge there after Muslim protestors drove them from their campus last year. On Oct. 27 officials began evicting about 300 students of Arastamar Evangelical Theological Seminary (SETIA) from blocks I and II of the former mayoral building, but those in blocks III, IV, and V chose to remain. The students, some of whom had sown their mouths shut as part of a hunger strike, asserted that new quarters offered by the Jakarta Provincial Government are not yet fit for occupancy - dirty and unkempt with broken windows and doors. The seminary students told Compass that unidentified mobs have threatened them, telling them to leave the former municipal complex immediately. According to Rev. Matheus Mangentang, rector of SETIA, the seminary is "no longer safe."

Canadian Bishops Warn against Human Trafficking at Winter Olympics

Christian Today reports that bishops in Vancouver want the church and government officials to take a proactive approach against human trafficking during next year's Olympic games. In a joint statement, Anglican and Catholic bishops described the February 2010 Games as a "celebration of human development through sport" but also expressed their intention to stand together in opposing the "social ill of human trafficking". The bishops quoted a report from the US State Department, estimating the number of people trafficked across national borders each year to stand at 800,000. "We call upon the faithful of our churches and all people of good will to uphold and defend the dignity of every human person," they said. "We pray that the solidarity and success of the Olympic Games will give a new respect for human life around the world."

Teen Convert, Muslim Parents to Meet, Talk About Religion

Fox News reports that a teen convert to Christianity who ran away from her Muslim parents will soon meet them again. Caseworkers in Ohio say 17-year-old Rifqa Bary and her parents need to "hear out" each other's religious views. Still, the plan does not mean Rifqa will be returned from Ohio's child services to her parents' custody. Rifqa told officials that she ran away after her father found out about her conversion to Christianity and threatened to kill her. Her father denied the allegations, and a Florida investigative team could not substantiate Rifqa's claims. Rifqa disappeared from Ohio in July, and was found several days later at a pastor's home in Orlando, Fla. The pastor and his wife say they met the teen through a Facebook prayer group.
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« Reply #852 on: December 04, 2009, 05:06:38 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 4, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Another 5 Chinese Megachurch Leaders Sentenced
    * Los Angeles Episcopalians Eye Gay Bishop
    * Christians Campaign for Return of London Homeless Advisor
    * Stars Lined up for New Audio Bible



Another 5 Chinese Megachurch Leaders Sentenced

The Christian Post reports that five more Chinese pastors have been sentenced to two years of hard labor after they tried to defend their church from being demolished. "To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labor camps is in direct violation against the international human rights covenants and norms the Chinese government has signed and even ratified," said Bob Fu, president of CAA, in a statement. "This case shows the Chinese government is determined to be on the wrong side of history by clenching its power with suppressing the basic freedom of religion and conscience for Chinese citizens. We call upon the international community to hold these rights abusers accountable." Five other pastors were sentenced earlier this month. None of the leaders were given a court trial.

Los Angeles Episcopalians Eye Gay Bishop

The Washington Times reports that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles may likely elect a lesbian priest to fill a suffragan bishop position. The Rev. Mary Glasspool, currently an Episcopal priest in Annapolis, Md., has more experience than the other four candidates, who include a gay man. "I think a gay candidate has a strong possibility of being elected," the Rev. Altagracia Perez, rector of Holy Faith Church in Inglewood. "Most people I've asked say she's their first or second choice. She has a great resume." Glasspool's orientation is "a nonissue," according to one clergy in the diocese. If elected this weekend, Glasspool would be the first openly gay bishop elected in the Episcopal Church since 2003, when New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson's election ignited a firestorm of controversy.

Christians Campaign for Return of London Homeless Advisor

Christian Today reports that a Christian group is lobbying for the return of a London homeless prevention officer who was fired after suggesting faith to a client. Duke Amachree was dismissed by a London council two days after talking with a homeless woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness. He encouraged her to look to God, a suggestion which the woman reported to his supervisors. "Is this really the Britain we live in? Whether we have faith or not, to the mind of every reasonable person I speak to, this treatment is astonishing," said Andrea Minichiello Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre. The group is gathering Christians to show their support at Amachree's internal appeal hearing on Dec. 15.

Stars Lined up for New Audio Bible

The Los Angeles Times reports that a four-year, $4-million project to record a star-studded audio Bible is ready for its audience. The recordings were spearheaded by radio veteran Carl Amari, a Chicago-area producer behind "Twilight Zone Radio Dramas" and "Mystery Theater." "I always thought it would be cool to do a radio drama of the Bible," said Amari. "You're dramatizing the greatest story ever told. It's God's word. How can you make God's word lift off the page? With great actors, great sound effects and music." Released from Thomas Nelson Inc., the recording involved more than 1,000 actors, technicians and musicians. Voice work included actors Jim Caviezel (Jesus), Malcolm McDowell (King Solomon) and Richard Dreyfuss (Moses). The finished work, "The Word of Promise Audio Bible," clocks in at 98 hours and 79 CDs.
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« Reply #853 on: December 07, 2009, 11:26:28 PM »

Five More Christian Leaders Sentenced in China
Special to Compass Direct News


December 7, 2009

LOS ANGELES (CDN) Bypassing the court system, China arbitrarily sentenced five more leaders of the Fushan Church in Linfen City, Shanxi Province, on Monday (Nov. 30), this time to re-education labor camps for two years, according to China Aid Association (CAA).

A Chinese court last week sentenced five house church leaders to three to seven years in prison after they were arrested en route to Beijing to file a complaint about an attack on their church, according to the advocacy organization. The five leaders sentenced to labor camps this week were accused of "gathering people to disturb the public order" after they organized a prayer rally of 1,000 people the day after military police and others attacked their church members and building on Sept. 13.

In what CAA termed "an arbitrary administrative sentence by the Public Security Bureau enacted so the leaders would not be 'required' to go through the court and prosecution system," China delivered the verdicts to church leaders Li Shuangping, Yang Hongzhen, Yang Caizhen (wife of Pastor Yang Xuan, who was sentenced to three years of prison on Nov. 25), Gao Qin (also known as Gao Fuqin), and Zhao Guoai.

"Yang Caizhen was seen being beaten severely during an interrogation," CAA said in a press statement. "Having had one of her front teeth knocked out during a beating, and fasting and praying during her detention, Ms. Yang is reported to look very fragile."

The church leaders, the latter four women, were arrested on Nov. 11. They had helped to organize a prayer rally after the Sept. 13 attack on the Fushan Church branch congregation in Linfen, when some 400 uniformed police and civilians bearing shovels, batons, bricks, iron hooks and other weapons had beaten members of the church who were sleeping at the nearly finished factory building used as a worship site.

With several Fushan County officials involved in the attack, more than 30 Christians were seriously injured among the 100 Christians who were hurt, CAA reported. According to the Epoch Times, a church member's relative obtained a license to build the shoe factory and was allowing the group to meet there, as the church was growing too large to meet in homes and the building could hold up to 400 people.

As Chinese authorities had kept the families of Gao Qin and Zhao Guoai under tight surveillance, CAA relied on church sources to confirm their sentences to labor camp. The organization said family members had confirmed the sentences of the other three.

"Linfen house church Christians continue to be monitored by Chinese military police, including neighboring Golden Lampstand Church (Jin Dongtai) in Linfen City," CAA stated.

The organization said authorities violated Chinese law by refusing to provide family members of the prisoners with copies of documents notifying them of the sentences.

All 10 of the Fushan Church leaders plan to appeal their sentences, according to CAA.

"To arbitrarily send five innocent citizens to labor camps is in direct violation against the international human rights covenants and norms the Chinese government has signed and even ratified," said CAA President Bob Fu.
The five pastors previously sentenced were arrested on Sept. 25 without a warrant, according to CAA. Yang Rongli was sent to prison for seven years for "illegally occupying farming land" and "disturbing transportation order by gathering masses."

She and four other pastors were sentenced on Wednesday (Nov. 25) at the People's Court of Raodu district, Linfen City, Shanxi Province. Yang's husband, Wang Xiaoguang, was handed a sentence of three years on the charge of "illegally occupying farming land." Cui Jiaxing was sentenced to four and half years, and Yang Xuan to three and half years, on the same charge; Zhang Huamei received four years of prison for "disturbing transportation order by gathering masses."

The pastors were arrested by Shanxi Province officers of the Public Security Bureau (PSB). Fu characterized their trial as a farce, saying the case demonstrated a deteriorating state of religious freedom in China.
Yang Rongli and Wang Xiaoguang had led the Fushan Church, part of a 50,000-strong house church network in Linfen and the surrounding villages, for more than 30 years.

The Beijing PSB has misrepresented the demolition and attack on the Linfen branch church as a response to a "violent uprising," Fu said.
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« Reply #854 on: December 07, 2009, 11:27:32 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 7, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

    * Tajikistani Church Tried for Meeting in Home
    * Sluggish World Economy Affecting Missions
    * Christian Group to Pay Off $10K in Strangers' Parking Tickets
    * NIH Approves 13 New Stem Cell Lines



Tajikistani Church Tried for Meeting in Home

Mission News Network reports that a relatively new religion law in Tajikistan has hamstrung an active Baptist church in the country. On Oct. 9, officials raided a Friday night meeting the church held in a private held. As a result, church leaders were called to court for meeting without state registration. The court banned the church, simply stating that "Residential houses and premises shall not be used in detriment to the interests of the state and society." According to Joel Griffith with Slavic Gospel Association, "A lot of this stems from a harsh new religion law that came into force in April of this past year... It basically imposes some pretty tight restrictions." He continued, "We're seeing this tightening up on evangelical churches, and it certainly is troubling to us."

Sluggish World Economy Affecting Missions

Baptist Press reports that Kevin and Jodi Nichols of Mississippi committed their lives to missions nearly two years ago -- but they will be in the U.S. for the foreseeable future. They planned to move to Russia with their four children in January. But in the midst of a rocky economy and shortfalls in missions giving, they won't be going anytime soon. The Nichols family's situation is a snapshot of how a struggling economy impacts lives -- both here and around the globe. Even in South Korea, one of the largest missionary-sending countries in the world, a sluggish U.S. economy has meant fewer sales and less money for local goods. As a result, fewer South Korean missionaries will have enough funds.

Christian Group to Pay Off $10K in Strangers' Parking Tickets

The Associated Press reports that a Christian group in Boise, Idaho, will offer those guilty of traffic violations a special Christmas gift. Last year, the Grace Gift Parable giveaway paid off almost $7,500 in unpaid parking tickets for passerby at City Hall. This year, thanks to area businesses and various churches in Treasure Valley, the group hopes to give away up to $10,000. Organizers plan to gather on Dec. 12 in front of City Hall and see what happens.  Montie Ralstin, Jr., the pastor at Boise Valley Christian Communion, says the event is to help people understand that even though they've made mistakes, forgiveness is available.

NIH Approves 13 New Stem Cell Lines

Religion News Service reports that the National Institutes of Health has approved the first human embryonic stem cell lines for research after President Obama lifted Bush-era bans on such research last March. "In accordance with the guidelines, these stem cell lines were derived from embryos that were donated under ethically sound informed consent processes," said Dr. Francis S. Collins, NIH director, in a Dec. 2 announcement. "More lines are under review now, and we anticipate continuing to expand this list of responsibly derived lines eligible for NIH funding." Eleven of the first 13 lines that were approved were produced at Children's Hospital Boston, and the other two were developed by Rockefeller University in New York.
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