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« Reply #855 on: December 14, 2009, 03:32:49 PM »

More than Half in Turkey Oppose Non-Muslim Meetings
Will Morris


December 8, 2009

ISTANBUL (CDN) — More than half of the population of Muslim-majority Turkey opposes members of other religions holding meetings or publishing materials to explain their faith, according to a recently issued survey.

Fully 59 percent of those surveyed said non-Muslims either "should not" or "absolutely should not" be allowed to hold open meetings where they can discuss their ideas. Fifty-four percent said non-Muslims either "should not" or "absolutely should not" be allowed to publish literature that describes their faith.

The survey also found that almost 40 percent of the population of Turkey said they had "very negative" or "negative" views of Christians. In the random survey, 60 percent of those polled said there is one true religion; over 90 percent of the population of Turkey is Sunni Muslim.

Ali Çarkoglu, one of two professors at Sabanci University who conducted the study, said no non-Muslim religious gathering in Turkey is completely "risk free."

"Even in Istanbul, it can't be easy to be an observant non-Muslim," Çarkoglu said.

The report, issued last month, was part of a study commissioned by the International Social Survey Program, a 45-nation academic group that conducts polls and research about social and political issues. The survey quantified how religious the population is in each of its 43-member countries.

Çarkoglu, along with Professor Ersin KalaycıoÄŸlu, carried out the research in 2008. The completed study with the results of all 43 countries will be released in 2010. The study has been conducted previously three times at roughly 10-year intervals.

This year marked the first time study data has been collected in Turkey. Turkey was the only Muslim-majority population in the study.

The survey includes significant nuance. While 42 percent of the population agreed with the statement that religious people should be tolerant, 49 percent of those surveyed said they would either "absolutely" or "most likely" not support a political party that accepted people from another religion. But 20 percent of those surveyed said they had "very positive" or "positive" views of Christians - 13 percent "very positive," and 7 percent "positive."

Çarkoglu said the results of study could be attributed to the Turkish educational system, which mandates religious studies for both junior high school and high school students - classes in which Christians and Jews "are not even mentioned" or are portrayed as "the others," Çarkoglu said.

"That instills in these students a severe point of view of intolerance," he added.

Dual Threat

The Rev. Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, speaking on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, said that Greek Orthodox Christians are treated like second-class citizens in Turkey. He said that members of his church feel "pressured" but things have improved slowly over the years. Earlier this year, two Greek Orthodox cemeteries in Istanbul and one in Izmir were severely vandalized.

"There's still vandalism, but there haven't been any problems with physical threats lately," he said.

In Turkey, Christians face dual threats from a self-declared "secular" state and from members of the public who, according to the study, have become more observant in their Islamic faith. Christians are often seen as enemies of the state, enemies of Islam or traitors to Turkish culture.

A 2009 report on international religious freedom by the U.S. Department of State said that in Turkey, "No law explicitly prohibits religious speech or religious conversions; nevertheless, many prosecutors and police regarded religious speech and religious activism with suspicion. Christians engaged in religious advocacy were occasionally threatened or pressured by government and state officials. ... Threats against non-Muslims created an atmosphere of pressure and diminished freedom for some non-Muslim communities."

At times in Turkey's history, the government has "manipulated public opinion" by putting forth the message that Turkish Christians are aligned with powers outside of the country that want to divide the nation, said Zekai Tanyar, a Turkish national who has been a Christian for more than 30 years. He is chairman of the Association of Protestant Churches (in Turkey).

"There are some who view that Christians are out to undermine the country, especially missionaries," he said.
In January 2007, Hrant Dink, editor-in-chief of the Armenian weekly Agos, was shot dead in Istanbul. Dink was a member of the Armenian Christian community in Turkey. Three months later, two Turkish Christians and a German Christian were murdered in Malatya. The accused killers in all four slayings have alleged links to Turkish nationalists. Two other Christians, converts from Islam, are standing trial charged with, among other things, "insulting Turkishness" and inciting hatred against Islam.

According to the U.S state department report, by law religious services in Turkey can only take place at worship sites approved by the government. And while the Sunni majority receives generous support from the government for its mosques, "[Non-Muslim groups] reported difficulties opening, maintaining, and operating houses of worship."

Tanyar of the Protestant association said that the anti-Christian persecution situation in Turkey has improved in some ways but gotten worse in others.

"People have gotten used to the idea that we exist, and certain laws have changed to accommodate us," he said. "On the other hand, acts of disinformation and violence have increased."
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« Reply #856 on: December 14, 2009, 03:34:18 PM »

Lesbian Bishop Poses Stark Choice for Episcopals
Daniel Burke


December 9, 2009

(RNS) -- After years of warnings from Anglican leaders, Saturday's (Dec. 5) election of a lesbian bishop poses a stark question for the Episcopal Church: Does it want to continue to be a full member in the global Anglican Communion, or go its own way?

In the coming months, more than 100 Episcopal dioceses and bishops will answer that query by confirming or rejecting the election of the Rev. Mary Glasspool as suffragan (assistant) bishop of Los Angeles.

Glasspool, 55, has been with her partner since 1988, according to a biography she provided to the Diocese of Los Angeles; she is poised to become the second openly gay bishop elected in the 2.1 million-member Episcopal Church.

But a majority of bishops and standing committees in the Episcopal Church's 110 dioceses must vote to give their "consents," or confirmation to Glasspool's election before she can be consecrated a bishop. Because that process involves the breadth of the church, it is likely to be an accurate reflection of Episcopalians' willingness to defy, or heed international pressure.

Within the U.S., the confirmation process has become more politicized in recent years, as the Internet has fostered online campaigns against candidates. Two elections have been nullified in the last two years, though one of the bishops was later re-elected.

On Sunday, the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams, strongly and swiftly warned Episcopalians that confirming Glasspool "will have very important implications."

Glasspool's election "raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the communion as a whole," Williams said.

Williams lacks the authority of a pope to summarily excommunicate churches or members that stray from the fold, but he has proposed a two-track system that could significantly reduce the Episcopal Church's role in the communion.

"I think it's a clear warning that we need to think seriously before giving consents," said Bishop Edward Little of the Diocese of Northern Indiana. "Clearly what Archbishop Rowan is implying is that if the American church goes forward and ordains a second person living in a same-sex partnership as bishop then it will damage, perhaps permanently, our place in the communion, and contribute toward its unraveling."

Little is one of about 15 bishops who have pledged to abide by a moratorium on gay bishops, and so will not consent to Glasspool's election, he said in an interview on Monday.

Archbishop Peter Jensen of Sydney, Australia, said Monday that Glasspool's election gives Williams "every reason" to "dissociate the Episcopal Church" from the Anglican Communion and to instead recognize a conservative breakaway church, the Anglican Church of North America, as the legitimate U.S. branch of Anglicanism.

The threats from Williams and other Anglican leaders have been steadily rising in intensity ever since Episcopalians elected V. Gene Robinson, an openly gay priest, as bishop of New Hampshire. Because his election fell within 90 days of the church's triennial General Convention, Robinson was confirmed by delegates and bishops at the assembly, instead of the process facing Glasspool.

In many parts of the Anglican Communion, which has 77 million members and includes the Episcopal Church as its U.S. branch, homosexuality is viewed as sinful. In Uganda, for example, Anglican leaders have refused to condemn a proposed law that would severely punish homosexuality and people who counsel gays and lesbians. The church did say, however, that homosexuals should not face the death penalty.

In contrast, large majorities of U.S. bishops and delegates voted in July to lift a three-year-old moratorium on gay bishops and blessing same-sex unions, despite pleadings from Williams not to do anything that would "push us further apart."

Episcopalians have begun to tune out warnings from Williams and other Anglican leaders, said Jim Naughton, spokesman for the Diocese of Washington. "If the sky is falling, it's been falling for a long time," he said, "and it doesn't appear any closer."

The Episcopal Church has said for years that it is committed to both the Anglican Communion and the full inclusion of gays and lesbians, said the Rev. Jo Bailey Wells, a professor and director of Anglican studies at Duke Divinity School in Durham, N.C. Glasspool's election is, in a sense, a fork in the road.

"I think Williams' statement points out the incommensurability of both agendas," she said. "Episcopalians are prone to deny the consequences of their actions, because they so believe in what they are doing that they don't believe that others do not believe."

As Glasspool's confirmation moves to local dioceses across the country, the votes of church bishops should be watched closely, said the Rev. Kendall Harmon, a conservative theologian from South Carolina.

Williams leaned on the bishops in his statement, reminding them that they had once agreed to "exercise restraint" when faced with the possibility of electing another gay bishop.

"It's the bishops that tend to be more institutional and seek a higher or larger view," Harmon said. "They have some sense of the international church. That's why Rowan singled them out."
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« Reply #857 on: December 14, 2009, 03:37:09 PM »

Chinese Pastor Sentenced to 15 Years in Prison
Special to Compass Direct News


December 11, 2009

LOS ANGELES (CDN) — Chinese authorities have quietly sentenced Uyghur Christian Alimjan Yimit (Alimujiang Yimiti in Chinese) to 15 years in prison on the apparently contrived charge of "providing state secrets to overseas organizations," according to China Aid Association (CAA).

The charge against the 36-year-old house church leader, held for more than two years at Kashgar Detention Center in China's troubled Xinjiang region, was apparently based on interviews he granted to media outside of China, according to his lawyer, Li Dunyong.

"The 15-year sentence is far more severe than I originally expected," Li said in a CAA press statement released yesterday. "It is the maximum penalty for this charge of 'divulging state secrets,' which requires Alimujiang's actions to be defined as having 'caused irreparable national grave damage.'"

CAA President Bob Fu said Alimjan's sentence was the most severe for a house church leader in nearly a decade.

"The whole world should be appalled at this injustice against innocent Christian leader Alimujiang," Fu said in the CAA statement. "We call upon the U.N. and people of conscience throughout the world to strongly protest to the Chinese government for this severe case of religious persecution."

CAA reported that officials had read the verdict to Alimjan while he was incarcerated on Oct. 27. Li confirmed to CAA that he had filed an appeal.

Initially the Bureau of State Security of Kashgar detained Alimjan on "suspicions of harming national security" on Jan. 11, 2008, according to CAA. As such charges are generally leveled against those considered to be an enemy of the state, Alimjan's family feared he would be subjected to capital punishment. Local sources have said that Alimjan, a convert from Islam in an area teeming with separatist tensions, loves and supports the Chinese government.

"As a loyal Chinese citizen and business entrepreneur, Alimujiang has held to high standards, paying his taxes faithfully and avoiding a common local custom of paying bribes for business favors," Fu said in a previous CAA statement. "He has also done his best to assimilate into Chinese culture, making the unusual decision to send his children to a Chinese language school in a predominantly Uyghur area."

Friends of Alimjan have said he simply wanted the freedom to quietly express his faith, a right guaranteed to him in the Chinese constitution, according to CAA. Not only is it illegal for him to own a Uyghur Bible, according to the advocacy organization, but he is also prohibited from attending services at the government-controlled Three Self Church in the area because the Xinjiang constitution contradicts China's constitution. He is also prohibited from praying with foreign Christians.

On Feb. 20, 2008 the initial charges against him were changed to "inciting secession" and leaking state secrets. Court officials returned Alimjan's case to state prosecutors in May 2008, citing lack of evidence.

This year he was secretly tried again on July 28, only on the second charge. Previously, attorney Li had petitioned for and been granted permission to meet with his client on April 21. Witnesses had seen police and a prison doctor escorting Alimjan to hospital on March 30, and Compass sources said Alimjan had been beaten in prison, although it was not clear who beat him or why.

When Li questioned him, Alimjan indicated that he was not allowed to speak about his health.

The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled his arrest and detention to be arbitrary and in violation of international law.

"The whole case is about religious faith issues, which are being used against Alimujiang for his conversion from Islam to Christianity by biased law enforcement agents, prosecutors and the court," said attorney Li. "The key for this case was the flawed 'Certificate for the Evidence.' In both form and content, the certificate was questionable. It even had no signature by the verifier at the bureau, which violates Chinese law."

Sources said there appears to be a concerted effort to shut down the leadership of the Uyghur church in a restive region where authorities fear anything they cannot control. The region of ethnic Uyghurs has come under a government crackdown the past two years as long-simmering tensions erupted.

Disputes over ownership of Xinjiang's land and rich mineral resources have led to resentment between Uyghurs - native to Xinjiang - and Han Chinese. Religious differences are also an issue, with a vast majority of Uyghurs practicing Islam, while most Chinese are officially atheists or follow Buddhism or syncretistic folk religions. Only a handful of China's estimated 10 million Uyghurs are known to be Christians.
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« Reply #858 on: December 14, 2009, 03:38:13 PM »

Christian Woman from Sudan Flees Muslim Family
Simba Tian


December 12, 2009

NAIROBI, Kenya (CDN) — A Sudanese woman who fled to Egypt after converting from Islam to Christianity is living in secluded isolation as her angry family members try to track her down.

Howida Ali's Muslim brother and her ex-husband began searching for her in Cairo earlier this year after a relative there reported her whereabouts to them. While there, her brother and ex-husband tried to seize her 10-year-old son from school.

"I'm afraid of my brother finding us," said the 38-year-old Ali, who has moved to another area. "Their aim is to take us back to Sudan, and there they will force us to return to the Islamic faith or sentence us to death according to Islamic law."

Ali said she divorced her husband, Esam El deen Ali, because of his drug addiction in 2001, before she converted to Christianity. She was living with her parents in Khartoum when she began seeing visions of Christ, she said.

"In 2004, I started to see a vision of Christ speaking to me," she told Compass. "When I shared it with my friend, who is a Muslim, she said that she used to hear these things from Christians."

This comment spurred her to seek out a Christian friend from southern Sudan, who told her about Jesus Christ and prayed with her.

"After that time, I begun to see more visions from Christ saying, 'He is Christ the Good Shepherd," she said.

Fearing that relatives might discover she was a Christian, in 2007 she escaped with her then-8-year-old son. Previously the family had tried to stop her from leaving on grounds that she should not travel unescorted by an adult male relative, and because they disapproved of her divorce.

"They destroyed my passport, but through the assistance of a Christian friend, I acquired a new passport and secretly left," she told Compass by e-mail.

Her peace in Egypt was short-lived; earlier this year, while Ali secretly attended church as she stayed with a Muslim relative in Cairo, the relative found out about her conversion to Christianity and notified her brother and ex-husband in Sudan.

They arrived in Cairo in July. She had found lodging at All Saints' Cathedral, an Episcopal church in Cairo that houses a refugee ministry, but as it became clear that her brother and ex-husband were searching for her, refugee ministry officials moved her and her son to an apartment.

Ali said her brother and ex-husband sought to kill her for apostasy, or leaving Islam - with the support of relatives back in Sudan and others in the community, members of the Shaingia tribe who practice a strict form of Islam.

"Life became very difficult for me," she said.

The Rev. Emmanuel S. Bennsion of All Saints' Cathedral confirmed that Ali's ex-husband and brother were acting on a tip from one of Ali's relatives when they came searching for her in Cairo. They went to her son's school to take him back to Sudan. It was a Christian school, and the director refused to hand the boy over to them, Bennsion said.

"Since that time, she has started hiding and become afraid," Bennsion told Compass.

Ali had received financial support from family in Sudan through the relative in Cairo who notified her family of her conversion; that support has since vanished.

Fearing forcible repatriation to Sudan, Ali tried to go to Israel; Egyptian authorities arrested her at the border and jailed her for two months. During that time, she said, her son was put in an Islamic children's home. A Muslim family had adopted him, but she was able to win back custody after leaving jail in October.

"We have stopped going out of the apartment or even going to church," she said. "My son can no longer go to school daily as before. We cannot live our lives as before. I cannot now participate in the Bible study or fellowships - I'm now depending only on myself for growing spiritually, and for prayer and Bible study."

She said her only hope for living her faith openly in Christian community is to secure asylum to another country that guarantees religious freedom.
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« Reply #859 on: December 14, 2009, 03:41:02 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 8, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * L.A.'s Lesbian Bishop Prompts New Concern for Anglicans
    * North Korea in the UN Spotlight
    * Report: Mainline Protestant Churches Face Rockier Future
    * Philippines Recovery Still Needs $4.5 Billion



L.A.'s Lesbian Bishop Prompts New Concern for Anglicans

Los Angeles Times reports that the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles' new suffragan bishop is excited to get to work, but the global head of the Anglican Communion is less enthusiastic. "I'm very excited about the future of the whole Episcopal Church and I see the Diocese of Los Angeles leading the way into that future," said the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool after her election on Friday. Glasspool is the first openly lesbian priest in the Episcopal Church, and the first openly homosexual priest to be elected since V. Gene Robinson's 2003 election in New Hampshire. However, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Anglican Communion's head, expressed concern. "The election of Mary Glasspool by the Diocese of Los Angeles as suffragan bishop elect raises very serious questions not just for the Episcopal Church and its place in the Anglican Communion, but for the Communion as a whole," Dr. Rowan Williams said.

North Korea in the UN Spotlight

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) reports that North Korea's human rights record came under intense scrutiny yesterday at the United Nations, as the country faces its first Universal Periodic Review at the Human Rights Council. CSW called for "an end to executions and abuses against the liberty and security" of North Korean people, and concluded that "there is a prima facie case for the commission of crimes against humanity, as well as indicators of genocide". North Korea's "strict hierarchical system of government" suggests that "the political leadership, and in particular Kim Jong-il, is to be held responsible". In a letter to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, 150 individuals who have suffered at the hands of the North Korean regime state beseeched the council for "accountability and justice for the crimes committed against ourselves."

Report: Mainline Protestant Churches Face Rockier Future

The Christian Post reports that a new survey from The Barna Group shows that mainline denominations did not decline as much as expected in the past decade, but may be "on the precipice of a period of decline." The report found that mainline church congregations average about 89 to 100 people, but that only 15 percent of American adults identify with a mainline denomination. The Barna Group considered American Baptist Churches in the USA; The Episcopal Church; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Church "mainline denominations." Today, these venerable denominations account for only one-fifth of all Protestant congregations today.

Philippines Recovery Still Needs $4.5 Billion

Mission News Network reports that the Philippines still needs almost $4.5 billion to recover from multiple typhoons that slammed the islands this fall. The World Bank estimates that $942.9 million is neeeded for recovery, while another $3.48 billion is needed to reconstruct and relocate devastated cities and villages. Relief agencies such as AMG International say that their ability to help is now limited because the scope of the damage. "We were able to help with immediate needs," said AMG's Roger Thomas. "The long-term is something that agencies like ours are just not equipped to handle. The government has to step in as best they can, along with agencies that are designed to do that." The agency is providing boats to families living in the second story of their flooded homes, helping their children get to school any way they can.
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« Reply #860 on: December 14, 2009, 03:41:59 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 9, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * Uyghur Church Leader Sentenced to 15 Years
    * Eritrea Arrests 30 Evangelical Christian Women
    * Special Investigations Team Sought in Orissa Violence
    * High Court to Hear Christian Student Club's Case



Uyghur Church Leader Sentenced to 15 Years

ASSIST News Service reports that a Uyghur house church leader has received the harshest sentence China has forced on a Christian in almost 10 years. 36-year-old Uyghur house church leader Alimujiang Yimiti received 15 years criminal detention on Oct. 28 for allegedly "providing state secrets to overseas organizations." His attorney, Li Dunyon, said, "The whole case is about religious faith issues which are being used against Alimujiang for his conversion from Islam to Christianity, by biased law enforcement agents, prosecutors and the court." Alimujiang must now serve the maximum penalty for the spurious charge of "divulging state secrets." ChinaAid President Bob Fu said, "The whole world should be appalled at this injustice against innocent Christian leader Alimujiang. We call upon the UN and people of conscience throughout the world to strongly protest to the Chinese government for this severe case of religious persecution."

Eritrea Arrests 30 Evangelical Christian Women

The Christian Post reports that the Eritrean government threw 30 elderly, Christian women into its notorious prisons this weekend. The women, who attend a Methodist-background Faith Mission Church, were taken into custody while praying together at a house. "We condemn the arrest of the 30 women by Eritrean officials," said International Christian Concern's regional manager for Africa and South Asia, Jonathan Racho. "We urge officials of Eritrea to release the detainees and all the imprisoned Christians in the country. We call upon Eritrea to stop violating the freedom of religion of its people." Eritrea has allegedly held dozens non-registered Christians in metal shipping containers as prisons, subjecting the prisoners to heat and physical duress.

Special Investigations Team Sought in Orissa Violence

Compass Direct News reports that Christian leaders in India have called for a special investigations team to counter the shoddy or corrupt police investigations into last year's anti-Christian violence in Orissa. Of the 100 cases handled by two-fast track courts, 32 have been heard as of Nov. 30, resulting in 48 convictions and more than 164 acquittals. The number of cases registered total 787. Among those exonerated "for lack of evidence" was Manoj Pradhan, a legislator from the Hindu extremist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who was acquitted of murder on Nov. 24. Thus far, Pradhan has been cleared in six of 14 cases against him. Attorneys have said acquittals have resulted from police investigations that are intentionally defective to cover up for Hindu extremist attackers. Meantime, Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has publicly admitted that Hindu nationalist groups were behind the killings and arson of Christians and their property.

High Court to Hear Christian Student Club's Case

Religion News Service reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of an evangelical Christian group that was banned by University of California in San Francisco. The Christian Legal Society was prevented from being recognized as a campus organization at a California law school because it excluded gays and lesbians. The group sued to be officially recognized at the public Hastings College of Law -- part of the University of California in San Francisco -- but was denied. Officials from the group said the school's policy violated their freedoms of speech, religion and association. "All student groups have the right to associate with people of like-mind and interest," said Kim Colby, senior counsel for the Christian Legal Society's Center for Law & Religious Freedom. Hastings said the organization must comply with the school's nondiscrimination policy to receive formal recognition, which gives them access to resources and travel funds.
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« Reply #861 on: December 14, 2009, 03:42:55 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 10, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * Anglican Panel Urges Episcopalians to Reject Lesbian Bishop
    * Burma's Christian Refugees Face Deportation from Thailand
    * Official Chinese Newspaper Publishes Call to Change Religion Policy
    * Christian TV Channel in Iran Tries to Reach Protestors



Anglican Panel Urges Episcopalians to Reject Lesbian Bishop

Religion News Service reports that an international Anglican commission has urged Episcopalians to exercise "gracious restraint" and not confirm the election of a lesbian ishop in Los Angeles. The Rev. Mary Glasspool was elected a suffragan (assistant) bishop by the Diocese of Los Angeles on Dec. 5. Glasspool, 55, has been with her partner since 1988, according to a biography she provided to the diocese. In the coming months, more than 100 bishops and standing committees from Episcopal dioceses across the country will vote on whether to give "consents," or confirmation, to Glasspool's election. If she receives confirmation, Glasspool will become the second openly gay bishop elected by the Episcopal Church. The global Anglican Communion, which has discouraged gay clergy for the time being, cannot prevent Glasspool's confirmation.

Burma's Christian Refugees Face Deportation from Thailand

ASSIST News Service reports that more than 70 Burmese children who fled to Thailand after being attacked by a Buddhist militia in June are being pressured to return to their country. Most of the children are Christians, according to International Christian Concern (ICC). On Friday morning, Thailand's border police stormed the Shekinah (Glory to God) orphanage in Mae Hong Son Province near the Burma border, put the names of all the residents on a register and asked them to prepare for deportation, said a worried caretaker. "If the children go back, they will be killed. This should never happen," she said, adding that she had informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about the possible move by the Thai government. In Burma, the country's military junta has tried to stamp out the Karen minority, most of identify as Christians.

Official Chinese Newspaper Publishes Call to Change Religion Policy

Christianity Today reports that a Chinese religion expert has gone on the record in a Chinese newspaper as saying he supports more and better guaranteed religious freedom. Liu Peng called for "an institutional guarantee for the legality and quality of all religions" in China Daily, the official government English language newspaper. In it, Liu estimated that about 50 million people attend house churches, acknowledging the limitations of the state-sponsored church. According to religious freedom advocates, the public article may signal a shift in China. "It tells me that the government is willing to float seriously a major change in religious policy," Brent Fulton, president of China Source in Los Angeles said. "It really is on the agenda. They're seriously looking at a change."

Christian TV Channel in Iran Tries to Reach Protestors

Mission News Network reports that the SAT-7 television ministry in Iran has added new programming in hopes of reaching Iranians tired of government oppression. "Everything in Iran is difficult," SAT-7 PARS Executive Director Sara Afshari said. "Even before the election, many people in Iran had become disillusioned. Some have turned to drugs, immoral lifestyles, and even suicide. This factor has led to an unprecedented interest in finding out more about the Christian faith." As satellite TV, the channels have avoided traditional government censorship. The country has been wracked by protests ever since the controversial June election, which many Iranians believe was a fraud. The government has since cracked down on protestors and Christians alike.
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« Reply #862 on: December 14, 2009, 03:43:57 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 10, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * Anglican Panel Urges Episcopalians to Reject Lesbian Bishop
    * Burma's Christian Refugees Face Deportation from Thailand
    * Official Chinese Newspaper Publishes Call to Change Religion Policy
    * Christian TV Channel in Iran Tries to Reach Protestors



Anglican Panel Urges Episcopalians to Reject Lesbian Bishop

Religion News Service reports that an international Anglican commission has urged Episcopalians to exercise "gracious restraint" and not confirm the election of a lesbian ishop in Los Angeles. The Rev. Mary Glasspool was elected a suffragan (assistant) bishop by the Diocese of Los Angeles on Dec. 5. Glasspool, 55, has been with her partner since 1988, according to a biography she provided to the diocese. In the coming months, more than 100 bishops and standing committees from Episcopal dioceses across the country will vote on whether to give "consents," or confirmation, to Glasspool's election. If she receives confirmation, Glasspool will become the second openly gay bishop elected by the Episcopal Church. The global Anglican Communion, which has discouraged gay clergy for the time being, cannot prevent Glasspool's confirmation.

Burma's Christian Refugees Face Deportation from Thailand

ASSIST News Service reports that more than 70 Burmese children who fled to Thailand after being attacked by a Buddhist militia in June are being pressured to return to their country. Most of the children are Christians, according to International Christian Concern (ICC). On Friday morning, Thailand's border police stormed the Shekinah (Glory to God) orphanage in Mae Hong Son Province near the Burma border, put the names of all the residents on a register and asked them to prepare for deportation, said a worried caretaker. "If the children go back, they will be killed. This should never happen," she said, adding that she had informed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) about the possible move by the Thai government. In Burma, the country's military junta has tried to stamp out the Karen minority, most of identify as Christians.

Official Chinese Newspaper Publishes Call to Change Religion Policy

Christianity Today reports that a Chinese religion expert has gone on the record in a Chinese newspaper as saying he supports more and better guaranteed religious freedom. Liu Peng called for "an institutional guarantee for the legality and quality of all religions" in China Daily, the official government English language newspaper. In it, Liu estimated that about 50 million people attend house churches, acknowledging the limitations of the state-sponsored church. According to religious freedom advocates, the public article may signal a shift in China. "It tells me that the government is willing to float seriously a major change in religious policy," Brent Fulton, president of China Source in Los Angeles said. "It really is on the agenda. They're seriously looking at a change."

Christian TV Channel in Iran Tries to Reach Protesters

Mission News Network reports that the SAT-7 television ministry in Iran has added new programming in hopes of reaching Iranians tired of government oppression. "Everything in Iran is difficult," SAT-7 PARS Executive Director Sara Afshari said. "Even before the election, many people in Iran had become disillusioned. Some have turned to drugs, immoral lifestyles, and even suicide. This factor has led to an unprecedented interest in finding out more about the Christian faith." As satellite TV, the channels have avoided traditional government censorship. The country has been wracked by protests ever since the controversial June election, which many Iranians believe was a fraud. The government has since cracked down on protestors and Christians alike.
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« Reply #863 on: December 14, 2009, 03:45:03 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 14, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff


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

In today's edition:

    * Fast-Growing Christian Churches Crushed in China
    * Hindu Nationalist Party Official in India Charged in Nun's Rape
    * British Inn Owners Cleared of Hate Crime against Muslim Guest
    * Church Torched by Hindu radicals in India



Fast-Growing Christian Churches Crushed in China

The Associated Press reports that the forced closure of what could be called China's first megachurch shows both the spread of house churches and official aversion to them. The Golden Lamp Church in the city of Linfen could hold 50,000 attendees before hundreds of police and mercenaries abused and vandalized the property almost three months ago. More than a dozen worshippers were seriously injured in the attack. Now, police patrol the former church's neighborhood while the church's pastors have been imprisoned. The church represented the country's growing number of unregistered (and therefore illegal) house churches, where an estimated 60 million Chinese attend. Only about 20 million worship in the state-approved Three-Self churches. "They are so afraid of rallying points developing for gathering of elements of civil society," said Daniel Bays, who follows Chinese Christianity at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Hindu Nationalist Party Official in India Charged in Nun's Rape

Compass Direct News reports that police in Orissa state have arrested an official of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for allegedly leading an attack that ended in the rape of a Catholic nun during last year. Gururam Patra, identified by local residents as general secretary of the BJP in Kandhamal district, was arrested on Dec. 6 in Balliguda; he was charged with leading the attack but not with the rape of Sister Meena Lalita Barwa, then 28, on Aug. 25, 2008. "He is the one who went into the house where the nun was staying and took her out, along with his associates who outraged her modesty," said an investigating officer, Dilip Kumar Mohanty. Previously police had arrested 18 associates of Patra. Hindu extremist groups distanced themselves from Patra, with Orissa BJP President Suresh Pujari telling Compass that he did not know if Patra was a member of his party.

British Inn Owners Cleared of Hate Crime against Muslim Guest

Religion News Service reports that two Christian hotel operators have won a legal fight against a Muslim convert who accused them of insulting her faith. Ericka Tazi, an ex-Roman Catholic who embraced Islam 18 months ago, told a magistrates' court in Liverpool, England, that during her stay at the Bounty House Hotel, innkeepers Benjamin and Sharon Vogelenzang subjected her to an hour-long anti-Islam tirade when she showed up for breakfast wearing a hijab, a Muslim head covering. Judge Richard Clancy threw out Tazi's complaint on Wednesday (Dec. 9) and dismissed a charge of a religiously aggravated "hate crime" against the owners, saying, "I'm not satisfied on the facts that this case has been made out." The ruling came only days after former church elder Gary MacFarlane lost a court case revolving around his own Christian beliefs, which he said prevented him from offering relationship counseling to gay couples.

Church Torched by Hindu radicals in India

ASSIST News Service reports that Hindu radical torched and destroyed another church in Andhra Pradesh state, India. Police investigations found that members of two Hindu radical groups, Rashtriya Swayam Sevaks and Bharatiya Janatha Party (BJP), poured petrol [gasoline] on Jesus Lights Manna Church and set it on fire on Dec. 8. The main entrance door of the church, the altar, window panes, church Amplifier (PA system), service books and Bibles were burnt to ashes. Witnesses saw the church burning around four o'clock in the morning and warned Pastor Mengu Elia. Police officials have arrested a BJP leader and another culprit for their alleged involvement in setting the church on fire.
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« Reply #864 on: December 17, 2009, 02:59:58 PM »

Unprecedented Christmas Gathering Held in Vietnam
Special to Compass Direct News


December 15, 2009

HO CHI MINH CITY (CDN) — On Friday evening (Dec. 11), history was made in communist Vietnam.

Christian sources reported that some 40,000 people gathered in a hastily constructed venue in Ho Chi Minh City to worship God, celebrate Christmas, and hear a gospel message - an event of unprecedented magnitude in Vietnam.

A popular Vietnamese Christian website and other reports indicated up to 8,000 people responded to the gospel message indicating a desire to follow Christ.

For the last two years, authorities surprisingly granted permission to unregistered house churches in Ho Chi Minh City to hold public Christmas rallies, and last year more than 10,000 people participated in one in Tao Dan Stadium.

This year visionary house church leaders approached the government in October and asked for a sports stadium seating 30,000; they were refused. Authorities offered a sports venue holding only 3,000, located 13 kilometers (eight miles) out of the city. This was unacceptable to the organizers. They pressed for another stadium in the city holding about 15,000, and officials gave them a verbal promise that they could have it.

The verbal promise did not translate into the written permission that is critical in the country - church leaders say such promises are empty until "we have the permission paper in our hand." Christian leaders believed event planning had to proceed without permission and sent out invitations far and wide - only to have authorities deny the stadium they had promised.

Led by Pastor Ho Tan Khoa, chairman of a large fellowship of house church organizations, organizers were forced to look for alternatives. They found a large open field in the Go Vap district of the city. When permission was still not granted five days before the planned event, several church leaders literally camped for three days outside city hall, pressing for an answer.

Authorities, who often work to sabotage united action among Christians, tried urgently to find ways to talk the leaders out of going ahead, promising future concessions if they would cancel the event. Organizers stood firm. Ultimately they told the deputy mayor that refusal to grant permission at that point would have far-ranging, negative ramifications in Vietnam as well as internationally.

Finally, at the close of business on Dec. 9, just 48 hours before the scheduled event, officials granted permission that required clearance all the way to Hanoi. But the permission was only for 3,000 people, and many more had been invited.

Organizers had less than two days to turn a vacant field into something that would accommodate a stadium-size crowd. They had to bring in ample electricity, construct a giant stage, rent 20,000 chairs, and set up the sound and lighting. The extremely short time frame caused contractors to double the prices they would have charged with ample time.

Organizers also rented hundreds of busses to bring Christians and their non-Christian friends from provinces near the city. Thousands of students sacrificed classes to help with last-minute preparations and to join the celebration.

Just after noon on Friday (Dec. 11), word came that police had stopped busses carrying 300 Steing minority people from the west to the event scheduled for that day. Organizers, fearing all busses would be stopped, put out an emergency worldwide prayer request.

Christian sources said that authorities either did not or could not stop busses from other directions, and that by evening the venue became the biggest "bus station" in all of Vietnam. By 6 p.m. the venue was full to capacity, and at least 2,000 had to be turned away.

Christians described the event, entitled, "With Our Whole Hearts," in superlative terms. For house churches, large gatherings are both very rare and very special, and for many this was their first glimpse of the strength of Vietnam's growing Christian movement. Thousands of Christians joined a choir of more 1,000 singers in loud and joyful praise.

Sources said that the main speaker, the Rev. Duong Thanh Lam, head of the Assemblies of God house churches "preached with anointing" and people responding to his gospel invitation poured to the front of the stage "like a waterfall." With space in front of the stage insufficient, the sources said, many others in their seats also indicated their desire to receive Christ.

Organizers along with many participants were overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude as the event closed. People spontaneously hugged each other and cried, "Lord, bring revival to all of Vietnam!" Other comments included, "Beyond our fondest imagination," and, "Nothing could stop the hand of the Lord."

The event raised more than 60 million dong (US$3,280) for a charity helping needy children. People were quite surprised to read a positive article on the event in the state-controlled press, which often vilifies Christians.

House churches in the north were hopeful that they could hold a similar event. Organizers in Hanoi have heard encouraging reports that they will get permission to use the national My Dinh sports stadium for a Christmas celebration, though they do not have it in hand. Sources said they have sent out invitations across a broad area to an event scheduled for Dec. 20.

Friday's event also made history in that it was streamed live on the Vietnamese website www.hoithanh.com and viewed by thousands more in Vietnam and by Vietnamese people around the world.
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« Reply #865 on: December 17, 2009, 03:01:09 PM »

Charismatic Leader Oral Roberts Dies at 91
Katherine Britton


December 15, 2009

Pioneering TV evangelist Oral Roberts has passed away due to complications from pneumonia, just a day after he fell in his home and was hospitalized. He was 91.

Roberts, who won a battle with tuberculosis at age 17, often credited that healing as the beginning of his ministry and calling. Throughout his ministry, Roberts emphasized God's healing touch through miracles.

"If God had not, in His sovereign will, raised up the ministry of Oral Roberts, the entire charismatic movement might not have occurred," said Dr. Jack Hayford, president of the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.

"Oral shook the landscape with the inescapable reality and practicality of Jesus' whole ministry," he continued. "His teaching and concepts were foundational to the renewal that swept through the whole church. He taught concepts that spread throughout the world and simplified and focused a spiritual lifestyle that is embraced by huge sectors of today's church."

After years of preaching, Roberts founded Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (OREA) in 1947 and began conducting crusades across America and around the world. The crowds included thousands who came for healing miracles, which Roberts claimed God enabled him to do. During Roberts' time with the crusades, they traveled to six continents with over 300 events. That ministry is continued today by his son, Richard.

In 1954, Oral Roberts revolutionized evangelism by bringing television cameras into services, providing what he called a "front-row seat to miracles" for millions of viewers. Today, that ministry has morphed into a daily program, "The Place for Miracles."   According to the Associated Press, Mr. Roberts' top-rated television evangelism series was second only to Billy Graham specials in ratings.

Roberts expanded his ministry in 1963 with the founding of Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oka. Longtime friend Billy Graham officially dedicated ORU four years later. In the 1970s graduate schools, including Medicine, Nursing, Dentistry, Law, Education, and Theology, were added. Roberts served as school president until 1993, when he became chancellor. Though the school was plagued in 2007 by financial stewardship issues under Roberts's son, Richard Roberts, the university still maintains a student body of about 3,800.

Roberts's personal tragedy came in 1977, when his daughter and son-in-law were killed in a plane crash. The experience prompted him to found the City of Faith Medical and Research Center in 1981, merging the healing power of medicine and prayer.  The center opened as a 30-story hospital, diagnostic center and medical school, though it closed after eight years due to lack of funds.

Roberts wrote more than 130 books, including "If You Need Healing, Do These Things," and "The Fourth Man." His book "The Miracle of Seed Faith" has more than 8 million copies in circulation. This book's key principles—God is your Source, sow your seed out of your need, and expect a miracle harvest—formed a fundamental part of Roberts' ministry and legacy.

"After I'm gone, others will have to judge how well I've obeyed God's command not to be an echo but to be a voice like Jesus," Roberts said. "As far as my own conviction is concerned, I've tried to be that voice with every fiber of my being, regardless of the cost."

Roberts was preceded in death by his wife, Evelyn, a daughter and son-in-law, Rebecca Ann and Marshall Nash; a son, Ronald David Roberts; a grandchild, Richard Oral Roberts.

He is survived by a son and daughter-in-law, Richard and Lindsay Roberts; a daughter and son-in-law, Roberta and Ronald Potts, all of Tulsa; as well as 12 grandchildren and several great-grandchildren.
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« Reply #866 on: December 17, 2009, 03:02:23 PM »

Pakistani Muslims Allegedly Poison, Kill Christian Employees
Jawad Mazhar


December 17, 2009

GUJRANWALA, Pakistan (CDN) — Muslim employers of three Christian sanitation workers at a banquet/wedding hall here allegedly poisoned the three workers yesterday, killing two of them; at press time the third was struggling for life in intensive care.

The father of the three workers, Yousaf Masih, said the owner of the hall, along with the manager, poisoned his sons because they were Christians who had dared to ask for pay owed to them.

Imran Masih, 29, and Irfan Masih, 25, died at the Ferozewala Pul Banquet & Marriage Hall after being forced to drink something that was heavily poisoned, Yousaf Masih said. The third worker, 23-year-old Aakash Masih, was in critical condition at the Intensive Care Unit of Civil Hospital Gujranwala, in Punjab Province.

"It appears from the position they were in that they were forced to consume some kind of poisoned drink, or a drug, and they were left there to die," Yousaf Masih said. "The administration of the banquet and wedding hall did not call a hospital or take them to a hospital - instead they called us after the death of two of our loved ones."

The Peoples Colony police station has registered a murder and deception case against Imtiyas Warriach, owner of the Ferozewala Pul Banquet & Marriage Hall, and hall manager Abid Virk. At press time they remained at large.
The chief of the Peoples Colony police station was not available for comment, but an officer told Compass that the two suspects would be arrested soon.

The family learned of the deaths when another of Yousaf Masih's sons, 21-year-old Javed Masih, received a telephone call at home from the owner, Warriach, saying that his older brother Imran Masih was lying dead on the floor of the wedding hall.

Because they had not been paid, the three brothers had left the hall to work elsewhere before returning this past weekend. Javed Masih said he spoke by telephone on Friday (Dec. 11) with Warriach, when the owner called asking for his three brothers to return to work.

"The owner and manager of the wedding hall called me in the early morning of Dec. 11 and pleaded for my three brothers to rejoin and start working," Javed Masih said. "They promised to reimburse their previous outstanding wages, as well as pay them a Christmas bonus and overtime. At this my brothers agreed and went to work the next morning."

When Yousaf and Javed Masih were summoned to the wedding hall yesterday, they found Imran Masih and Irfan Masih dead. Aakash Masih was alive but lying still on the floor, they said.

Yousaf Masih said his sons had long told him that owner Warriach and manager Virk refused to pay their daily wages, and that the managers and staff members at the hall spoke derogatorily to them for being Christians.

"On demand of their daily wages, the owner and manager had threatened them that they would continue to work without payment or face the dire consequences," Yousaf Masih said. "After my sons rejoined as sanitation workers, both Warriach and Virk started to make fun of them for leaving the job previously. Both the Muslim men mocked my sons for being Christian and called them by pejorative names such as 'Choohra.'"

Yousaf Masih, 47, told Compass at the Sargodha offices of human rights group Rays of Development Organization that his sons had worked at the same wedding hall since the day it opened in 2005. Sobbing, he said that the owner and manager had never paid them their full wages during that time, so they had begun looking for other work a few weeks before the Islamic festival of sacrifice, called Eid-ul-Azha.

Muslims refrain from marrying during the Islamic month of Muharram, so in the small window of time between the start of that month and the end of the Eid-ul-Azha festival, wedding halls thrive and require all available help, he said.

Javed Masih said the bodies of Imran Masih and Irfan Masih were moved to the morgue at Civil Hospital Gujranwala for autopsy.
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« Reply #867 on: December 17, 2009, 03:03:35 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 15, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * Rick Warren Joins Thousands in Condemning Uganda Anti-Gay Bill
    * 'Islam Is a Dangerous Religion,' Most American Pastors Say
    * Church Bells across Britain Ring in Climate Appeal
    * Episcopal Head Responds to Election of Lesbian Bishop



Rick Warren Joins Thousands in Condemning Uganda Anti-Gay Bill

Baptist Press reports that megachurch pastor Rick Warren has joined a growing number of Christians in condemning a proposed law in Uganda that would require execution of some homosexuals. "The potential law is unjust, extreme and un-Christian toward homosexuals," said Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., in an open letter to pastors of Uganda. The proposed legislation would put the death penalty on practicing homosexuals who have HIV, and would force pastors, parents, and counselors to report homosexuals to authorities. He joined other evangelicals in condemning the bill. Andrew Marin, author of "Love Is an Orientation," and Dr. Warren Throckmorton, a Christian professor at Grove City College, started a Facebook group to spread awareness about the bill. That group has now grown to 10,000 members from various faiths.

'Islam Is a Dangerous Religion,' Most American Pastors Say

The Christian Post reports that American pastors mostly agree with the statement that Islam is a dangerous religion. According to a new survey by LifeWay Research, 45 percent of pastors strongly agree with the statement "I believe Islam is a dangerous religion," and 21 percent agree somewhat.  LifeWay Research President Ed Stetzer said, "It's important to note [that] our survey asked whether pastors viewed Islam as 'dangerous,' but that does not necessarily mean 'violent.'"  Stetzer said the survey's parameters include pastors who see Islam as a worldview or cultural threat, similar to the way many in Europe view Muslim immigrants. Still, the survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors shows that clergy are "concerned," he continued. The perceptive of Islam as "dangerous" varied widely along denominational and political lines.

Church Bells across Britain Ring in Climate Appeal

BBC News reports that churches in Britain have rung out their support for a deal at the Copenhagen climate conference in a traditional way - with chimes. Church bells throughout Britain chimed 350 times to signify the 350 parts per million some developing nations say is the safe upper concentration for carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Similar demonstrations have occurred in New Zealand, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden and the U.S., coordinated by the World Council of Churches. The Church of England's spiritual head, Dr. Rowan Williams, has encouraged leaders in Copenhagen to reach some agreement.

Episcopal Head Responds to Election of Lesbian Bishop

The Christian Post reports that the head of the Episcopal Church has reserved enthusiastic support for the election of the denomination's first openly lesbian bishop. Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori urged "prayer and discernment" concerning the Rev. Canon Mary D. Glasspool in the Diocese of Los Angeles, perhaps recognizing the galvanizing effect the election could have on the splintering denomination. "The challenges of our current age include the ancient human desire to find a scapegoat, with the familiar targets in this society right now being Muslims and immigrants and gay people," said Schori, who has pushed for full inclusion of gays in the church hierarchy. "Jesus' own witness is to continually reject that kind of response, for it always ends in violence and diminution of life," she said.
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« Reply #868 on: December 17, 2009, 03:04:56 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 16, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * Turks Threaten to Kill Priest over Swiss Minaret Decision
    * Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Uganda's Anti-Gay Law
    * Church Screening of 'Jesus Film' Attacked in Pakistan
    * Pakistan: Father and Daughter Acquitted of Apostasy Charges



Turks Threaten to Kill Priest over Swiss Minaret Decision

Compass Direct News reports that a group of Muslims went into a church building in eastern Turkey and threatened to kill a priest unless he tore down its bell tower. The group was reporting acting in response to a Swiss vote banning the construction of new mosque minarets. On Dec. 4, three Muslims entered the Meryem Ana Church, a Syriac Orthodox church in Diyarbakir, and confronted the Rev. Yusuf Akbulut. "If Switzerland is demolishing our minarets, we will demolish your bell towers too," one of the men told Akbulut. In a Nov. 29 referendum in Switzerland, 57 percent voted in favor of banning the construction of new minarets in the country. The Swiss ban, widely viewed around the world as a breach of religious freedom, is likely to face legal challenges in Switzerland and in the European Court of Human Rights. Akbulut has contacted police but has otherwise remained defiant in the face of the threats.

Archbishop of Canterbury Condemns Uganda's Anti-Gay Law

Religion News Service reports that after weeks of intense pressure from Episcopal gay rights groups, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams has condemned the "shocking severity" of proposed anti-gay laws in Uganda. The spiritual leader of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion also said that "I can't see how it could be supported by any Anglican who is committed to what the Communion has said in recent decades." Williams had been heavily criticized by American gay rights advocates, particularly since he said the election of a lesbian as an Episcopal bishop in Los Angeles raised "very serious questions" about the Episcopal Church's future with the Anglican Communion. A number of U.S. religious leaders and gay rights groups have already condemned the proposed Ugandan laws, which would imprison gays and lesbians as well as people who counsel them. The Anglican Church of Uganda, however, has opposed only the proposed death penalty for "aggravated homosexuality."

Church Screening of 'Jesus Film' Attacked in Pakistan

Compass Direct News reports that some 50 Muslim villagers attacked a showing of the "Jesus Film" near this city in Punjab Province on Dec. 9, injuring seven Christians. Two of the Christians, who are part-time evangelists, were seriously injured. The Muslim hardliners also damaged a movie projector, burned reels of the film and absconded with the public address system and donations from Christian viewers in Chak village. Officers at the Saddr police station refused to register a case against the Muslim assailants, sources said. The three part-time evangelists - Ishtiaq Bhatti, Imtiaz Ghauri and Kaleem Ghulam - were screening the film within the premises of the Catholic Church of Chak. Ghauri and Ghulam sustained serious injuries for which they received treatment at another hospital. The evangelists said that a Muslim cleric incited Muslim villagers, who were armed with clubs, spades and axes.

Pakistan: Father and Daughter Acquitted of Apostasy Charges

ASSIST News Service reports that a Pakistani father and daughter have been acquitted and freed after being accused of desecrating the Qur'an, the Muslim Holy book. Gulsher Masih was a prisoner in the Faisalabad District Jail, while his 20-year-old daughter Ashiyana, was imprisoned in the Jhang District Jail. Both faced life in prison under a Pakistani law that severely punishes those who "defile" or "damage" the Qur'an. The case against the father and daughter began to fall apart when their accuser, Muhammad Farooq Alam, admitted that he had a personal grudge against the two. According to their lawyer, "while he and others were in the mosque to offer their prayers, the father and daughter used to put on the loud speaker in the nearby church."
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« Reply #869 on: December 17, 2009, 03:06:06 PM »

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 17, 2009
Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

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

In today's edition:

    * UK Registar Who Refused to Conduct Gay Ceremony Loses Case
    * Billy Graham Remembers Evangelist Oral Roberts
    * Victims of Gojra Violence Slowly Healing
    * Catholic Newspaper's Battle Goes to Malaysia High Court



UK Registar Who Refused to Conduct Gay Ceremony Loses Case

Christian Today reports that a Christian registrar has lost her appeal against a north London council after it disciplined her for refusing to conduct same-sex civil partnership ceremonies. Lillian Ladele was ordered to perform ceremonies for same-sex couples in July, despite saying her refusal as a "matter of religious conscience." The Islington Council then fired her. An intial hearing decided in Ladele's favor, but an appeals court said that Ladele had not faced religious discrimination, though she had been treated unfairly. Wednesday's ruling called Ladele's case "sympathetic" but not meeting "the requirements of a modern liberal democracy." Mike Judge, head of communications at The Christian Institute for Ladele's defense, said, "Looking at the matter more widely, government regulations in this area have not done enough to protect religious liberty.

Billy Graham Remembers Evangelist Oral Roberts

Popular evangelist Billy Graham remembered his longtime friend Oral Roberts kindly yesterday, just hours after the 91-year-old evangelist died. "Oral Roberts was a man of God, and a great friend in ministry. I loved him as a brother. We had many quiet conversations over the years. I invited Oral to speak at one of our early international conferences on evangelism held in Berlin in the 1960s," Graham said. "Just three weeks ago, I was privileged to talk to Oral over the telephone. During the short conversation, he said to me that he was near the end of his life's journey. I look forward to the day that I will see Oral and [his wife] Evelyn Roberts again in Heaven--our eternal home." A public memorial service to honor evangelist Oral Roberts, founder of Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association (OREA) and Oral Roberts University (ORU), has been scheduled for 2 p.m. Central Time, Monday, Dec. 21 at ORU.

Victims of Gojra Violence Slowly Healing

ASSIST News Service reports that many of the Pakistani Christians affected by violence in Punjab Province are still in shock, but say they are slowly being "healed." The July 30 violence, which resulted in the burning of more than 50 houses and four churches in Korian village, was sparked by rumors that a Christian, Mr. Talib Masih, and his family, had desecrated the Qur'an (the Holy Book of Muslims) during a marriage ceremony. On Aug. 1, the violence escalated dramatically when Muslim extremists burned to death seven Christians. At least 68 homes and two churches were burned down in the nearby Christian Colony of Gojra. But the residents of these two villages are encouraged by the legal and relief efforts of the government of Punjab and are feeling "healed." Some 101 accused of participating in the incidents have been arrested and so far the cases of 189 those also accused have been sent to the court.

Catholic Newspaper's Battle Goes to Malaysia High Court

The Christian Post reports that a Catholic newspaper's ability to use "Allah" as a translation for God in Malaysia has reached the country's high court. Authorities banned newspaper's usage of the term, saying it only referred to the Muslim god and could confuse Muslims. ""In our country, if one refers to Allah or mentions kalimah Allah, it will bring to one's mind that it refers to the god for Muslims. Kalimah Allah is sacred to the Muslims and put at the highest position, and its sanctity must be protected," said Senior Federal Counsel Datuk Kamaluddin. The Catholic newspaper, The Herald, say the word has been used as an accurate translation for centuries. The newspaper's lead counsel, Porres Royan, argued Monday that the word "Allah" was essential for worship and faith instruction within the country's Bahasa Malaysia-speaking Catholic community.
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