Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 11, 2013

Religion Today Daily Headlines - March 11, 2013

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

In today's edition:


Totalitarian Government of Eritrea Beats and Detains 125 Christians

International Christian Concern reports that 125 Christians have been beaten and detained over the past week in Eritrea. "Police arrested these church members from homes and workplaces during broad daylight and then marched them through town to the police station while beating them," an investigator for Open Doors said. Among the 125 Christians, 45 men and women were arrested on Feb. 27 for worshipping outside highly regulated government-approved churches in Eritrea. All of the 125 Christians detained were members of an evangelical denomination located in the southwestern town of Barentu. According to sources, the Eritrean government has denied any wrongdoing in regards to the arrests. "Being a Christian in Eritrea is like living in hell," a source inside Eritrea said. "Christians are treated like enemy number one." President Isaias Afwerki, who has been in power since 1993, has instituted a totalitarian regime that seeks to control all aspects of life in Eritrea, including the religious practices of its citizens. "Systematic, ongoing and egregious religious freedom violations continue in Eritrea," the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom states. "These violations include torture, sometimes resulting in death, arbitrary detention and prolonged bans on religious activities." It is estimated over 2,000 Christians remain imprisoned in Eritrea, exposed to some of the most inhuman conditions in the world. 

Syrian Christians Fleeing as Islamists Take Over

Islamic rebels have been taking over Christian villages in Syria, leaving Christians facing some tough choices, CBN News reports. A Muslim group recently captured the Christian village of Yacoubiyeh, and many residents fled, leaving behind empty homes and damaged churches. Some say they won't return until they see how the Muslim rebel commander treats minorities. Though the commander says he will treat everyone fairly, like many rebel leaders he rules according to strict Islamic law. Elsewhere in Syria, reports abound of Muslim rebels murdering Christians and kidnapping others for ransom, and the number of Syrians who have fled their war-torn country has now surpassed the 1 million mark. 

Gay Activists Demand Tebow Cancel Speech at Liberty University

Gay rights activists demanded last week that Tim Tebow back out of a speaking engagement at Liberty University, just two weeks after pressuring the New York Jets quarterback to cancel an appearance at First Baptist Church of Dallas, Todd Starnes reports. Tebow spoke this weekend at Wildfire, a men's conference hosted by the conservative Christian university, and his remarks were closed to the general public. Tebow is well-known for sharing his faith in Christ, but in recent weeks he has come under fire from the media and gay rights activists for speaking in churches that follow biblical teaching. More than 10,000 people signed a petition launched by Faithful America calling on the quarterback to cancel his speech, and the Huffington Post, which called Liberty a "notoriously conservative private college with an anti-gay reputation," said, "Due to Liberty University's reputation for intolerance toward the LGBT community, some might interpret the athlete's appearance as a tacit acknowledgment of similar values." Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality urged Liberty and Tebow to stand firm -- and warned that homosexual activists cannot be appeased. "Their goal is to marginalize and to discredit Christians," LaBarbera said. The university declined to address the controversy.

Christians in North Korea Face More Uncertainty After New Sanctions Imposed

A fresh set of sanctions agreed by the United Nations last week will impose further restrictions on North Korea and increasingly limit its ability to function in the international community. According to Open Doors USA, Christians also could be impacted as uncertainty and threats of attacks against the United States and South Korea increase. The new resolution instructs North Korea to cease all nuclear and missile testing. It contains measures that will block financial transactions, impound cash, empower countries to inspect suspicious cargo, and expand a blacklist of items that North Korea is prohibited from importing. The sanctions place new constraints on North Korean diplomats, raising their risk of expulsion, but they do not allow countries to stop and inspect North Korean shipments on the high seas or force down aircraft suspected of moving contraband -- acts that could set off a violent confrontation. "The situation is unclear, North Korea may not be allowed to receive any form of external assistance anymore," said a member of the Open Doors field team. "But since Open Doors does not have any 'above ground' projects, the immediate future of our work should not be impacted by the new sanctions. We work in secret and will continue to do so." North Korea has been No. 1 on the Open Doors World Watch List of the worst persecutors of believers for 11 years in a row.

Publication date: March 11, 2013