Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- North Korean Church Leaders Ask for Prayer Amid War Preparations
- Ohio School Takes Down Jesus Portrait Under Legal Threat
- Nearly Half of Young Women Live With Boyfriend Prior to Marriage
- Pakistan Court Overturns Blasphemy Conviction, Death Sentence
North Korean Church Leaders Ask for Prayer Amid War Preparations
North Korean church leaders are asking Christians worldwide to pray for their country amid increased war threats and combat preparation by North Korean military officials, Open Doors USA reports. According to underground Christians, there is a war-like atmosphere in the country: "We are to meet the decisive battle with a gun in one hand and a hammer in the other," said one Christian leader, summarizing the message North Korean people recently received from the high command. "The military army, navy, air force troops, strategic rocket troops, the red guards and the red youth guards are already in combat mode. Urgent meetings are being held everywhere, regardless if it is day or night. At those meetings, officials make decisions on what needs to happen in case war breaks out and everyone, including women, needs to be combat ready." The leader said North Korean Christians and other citizens feared war and its consequences, and requested prayers from believers worldwide: "I would like to thank the many brothers and sisters around the world for their continuous love and support. We know that our journey will not be an easy one, but we are sure that our faith, desperate hope and passionate desire will some day bear many fruit. No matter how difficult life is for us, we never blame or complain about our circumstances. God has promised us in the Bible that if we seek His kingdom first, all other things will be given to us as well. Please pray for us."
Ohio School Takes Down Jesus Portrait Under Legal Threat
A portrait of Jesus that had adorned a southern Ohio public school district building since 1947 has been taken down after officials decided they could not risk losing a lawsuit to the American Civil Liberties Union, Fox News reports. The portrait had been in the middle school entranceway's "Hall of Honor" along with other portraits of famous local residents and alumni, and had recently been moved to the high school building. Phil Howard, superintendent of Jackson City Schools, said the decision was made after the district's insurance company declined to cover litigation expenses, and a student club that owns the portrait took it down Wednesday morning at Howard's direction. "At the end of the day, we just couldn't roll the dice with taxpayer money," Howard said. "When you get into these kinds of legal battles, you're not talking about money you can raise with bake sales and car washes. It's not fair to take those resources from our kids' education." The ACLU and the Freedom From Religion Foundation had sued on behalf a student and two parents, calling the portrait an unconstitutional promotion of religion in a public school. An ACLU spokesman says the lawsuit remains in effect, but will be dropped if the portrait stays down.
Nearly Half of Young Women Live With Boyfriend Prior to Marriage
Nearly half of women ages 15 to 44 say their "first union" was cohabitation rather than marriage, according to a new survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, USA Today reports. As a first union, 48 percent of women moved in with their male partner, up markedly from 43 percent in 2002 and 34 percent in 1995. Just 23 percent of first unions were marriages, down from 30 percent in 2002 and 39 percent in 1995. "Instead of marriage, people are moving into cohabitation as a first union," said demographer Casey Copen, the report's lead author. "It's kind of a ubiquitous phenomenon now." Experts say the numbers show living together is increasingly being used as a "testing ground" for marriage. Within three years of cohabiting, 40 percent of women had transitioned to marriage, 32 percent remained living together and 27 percent had broken up. The median duration of first cohabitation is 22 months, up from 20 months in 2002 and 13 months in 1995. The report also found that 19 percent of women became pregnant and gave birth in the first year of a first premarital cohabitation.
Pakistan Court Overturns Blasphemy Conviction, Death Sentence
A Pakistan court this week threw out the 2007 conviction of a Christian man sentenced to death for offending Islam, World Watch Monitor reports. Younis Masih is at least the second Christian accused of blasphemy that Pakistani judges have exonerated since the country's Supreme Court threw out a high-profile blasphemy case against a teenaged girl that drew worldwide attention. On Wednesday, an appeals court in Lahore announced it had acquitted Masih of the blasphemy charge, which arose from an argument during an interfaith meeting in September 2005. The decision came five weeks after Masih's attorney, civil rights advocate Naeem Shakir, presented evidence during a two-day hearing that the 2007 conviction was based on hearsay. Though now a free man, Masih, 42, remained in Central Jail Mianwali on Wednesday as his advocates considered how and where to safely return him to his family and to open Pakistani society.
Publication date: April 5, 2013