- Salutatorian Refuses To Keep Silent about Faith In Her Graduation Speech
- Militia Attacks Northern Sudanese Slave Center
- Churches Told To Stop Preaching In Uzbek
- Gospel for Asia Student Murdered In Kashmir
- Missionary Finds Meaning in Amazon Tragedy
Salutatorian Refuses To Keep Silent about Faith In Her Graduation Speech ... After winning a hard fought battle over an attempt to censor religious references from her speech, Shannon Wray delivered her non-censored salutatorian speech on Friday during the Hollidaysburg Area High School graduation ceremony. Shannon was represented by Mat Staver, Erik Stanley, and Joel Oster of Liberty Counsel, a Religious Civil Liberties Legal Defense Organization, in her fight against the censorship of her speech.
By graduating as salutatorian, Shannon earned the opportunity to give a speech during the graduation ceremony. The school asked Shannon to speak about the past, including how friendships helped her get through high school. Shannon is a dedicated Christian, and she felt that she could not give the speech without talking about how her best friend, Jesus Christ, helped her through school. In the speech, Shannon said, "He, even more so than the people I love, has been there every day, never forcing me to do anything, but always encouraging me to stretch my limits and strive for the best He has to offer. His name is Jesus; He is my greatest friend." She went on to say, "It is because of Him that I have achieved and succeeded, and, no matter how much knowledge Hollidaysburg High has bestowed upon me, I would know nothing if I didn't know Him."
The school, after reading a copy of Shannon's speech, censored the above statements, and prohibited Shannon from making other religious references in her speech. Liberty Counsel then contacted the school, and informed the school that censoring Shannon's speech of religious content violated the Establishment Clause, Free Speech Clause, and the Free Exercise of Religion Clause of the United States Constitution. On the eve of filing a Temporary Restraining Order in Federal Court against the school, the school agreed to not censor Shannon's speech.
Militia Attacks Northern Sudanese Slave Center ... According to Christian Solidarity International (CSI), scores of Black Sudanese slaves are reported missing in the aftermath of a June 2 raid by Arab militiamen against a government-run slave detention center. The initial report, which came from Save the Children Fund (SCF), indicated that the fate of the missing slaves is still unknown. Fears are growing that they may have been killed or abducted.
The former Deputy Prime Minister of Sudan, Aldo Ajou Deng, demanded an independent, international inquiry into the fate of the missing slaves, and urged the UN to provide adequate protection for slaves held in such government detention centers. Deng also echoed the longstanding appeals of other Southern Sudanese community leaders for the immediate release and return home of the hundreds of slaves remaining in government custody.
The Arab militiamen, Deng speculated, targeted the Adila detention center to remove evidence of their involvement in the Sudanese slave trade, following report issued last month by the U.S.-led international "Eminent Persons" committee for the investigation of slavery in Sudan.
The missing slaves were captured during raids on their villages in northern Bahr El Ghazal, Southern Sudan at various times during the past two decades. They were removed from their masters and placed for their "protection" in the Adila "Peace Center" after the establishment of the Government of Sudan's Committee for the Eradication of Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC) in 1998.
Churches Told To Stop Preaching In Uzbek ... Barnabas Fund News Service (BFS) reports that a senior religious affairs official in Uzbekistan has demanded that churches stop preaching in Uzbek, the country's first language. In another incident, 18 Christians were detained after an investigation into the sources of Christian literature in Central Asian languages. These and other incidents have led Christians to issue an open letter in which they state, "Actions have recently been resumed in Uzbekistan which could soon lead to a significant restriction on religious freedom in our country."
According to BFS, the chairman of the Bible Society of Uzbekistan is quoted as saying that it was, "impossible to rule out the possibility that the authorities are beginning a campaign against Protestant communities in the republic." The situation of churches is particularly difficult in the autonomous republic of Karakalpakstan in the northwest of Uzbekistan, where the authorities appear to be trying to halt the spread of Christianity among the local people.
On 13 May, six policemen appeared at a meeting of the New Life Church in Nukus, the capital of Karakalpakstan. They searched all 17 people present, including two foreigners, and then took them to the city's Administration of Internal Affairs. Four of the local Christians were later fined for organizing an illegal meeting. A spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Karakalpakstan stated that the church had not been registered and therefore had no right to hold religious meetings. In the whole of Karakalpakstan only one Christian community has been able to obtain registration.
Gospel for Asia Student Murdered In Kashmir ... A student from the Gospel for Asia (GFA) Bible school in Indian-controlled Kashmir has been murdered, according to a press release from the ministry. "Details are still sketchy, but our missionaries and field leaders believe that local Muslim extremists are responsible for his death," said the report.
The slain brother belonged to a group of GFA Bible school students who are ministering among the tens of thousands of refugees fleeing the Pakistan/India border under the threat of war. Although the senior GFA leader who oversees the Kashmir region had instructed all missionaries and students to leave the area, 47 of them chose to stay behind and be a witness for the Lord. Even now they are scattered along the border areas of Kashmir, preaching the Gospel to the refugees and assisting them in practical ways.
These students are studying at a GFA Bible school located just five kilometers from the Pakistan border, where there has been much unrest almost daily. Before the Afghan war, few Muslim extremists were creating strife in the area. Since then, however, dozens of groups like Al-Qaeda have moved in and are causing much unrest. Recently some GFA missionaries narrowly escaped death when a bus they had just stepped off of exploded.
Missionary Finds Meaning in Amazon Tragedy ... Jim Bowers, whose wife Roni and adopted daughter were shot down in a plane over Peru last year, is using his pain to the glory of God. According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, Bowers is about to embark on a speaking tour of Portugal, England and the United States. In addition to sharing details of how the plane carrying his family was mistaken for a drug-smuggling operation and shot down by the Peruvian air force, Bowers will try to inspire others to go into missions work. He will also be promoting a new book, "If God Should Choose: The Authorized Story of Jim and Roni Bowers," by Kristen Stagg.
According to the Los Angeles Times, Bowers is helping to start up a congregation of Spanish speakers at his church, Bethel Baptist, in Cary, N.C. He reportedly is convinced that while "the death of his wife and daughter might seem senseless, it is all part of God's plan. The goal Roni and I had is to convince people of the truth," he said. "Because of her death, many more people have been convinced. I have a huge open door, much more than I would have had if we went on with our life. There's so much evidence God was in this."