Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 20, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Apr. 20, 2009

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Drug Violence Halts Church Trips to U.S.-Mexico Border
  • Buddhist Mobs Attack Sri Lankan Churches
  • Violence Hits India's Poll Stations
  • Most U.S. Christians Don't Believe Satan, Holy Spirit, Exists

Drug Violence Halts Church Trips to U.S.-Mexico Border

Christianity Today reports that short-term mission trips to a once-popular destination have begun to dry up. Trip coordinators for Juarez, Mexico -- just two miles south of El Paso, Texas -- have canceled planned trips due to the sharp spike in violence from a drug-cartel war. More than 1,800 people in the city of 1.6 million have been killed since January 2008, some in public shootouts, and thousands more have been threatened. "Ministry partners have experienced threats of extortion," said YouthWorks regional director Jason Atkinson in a memo. "Our own staff were victims of armed robbery and carjacking." Peggy Kulesz of First Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, said her church has been sending members to the city for 30 years, but cancelled this year's trip. "When you feel a real sense of calling and then the door is shut, you... wonder what God has in store and how he is going to work in this time of crisis with Christians in the area."

Buddhist Mobs Attack Sri Lankan Churches

Compass Direct News reports that Buddhist mobs attacked several churches in Sri Lanka last week, threatening to kill a pastor in the southern province of Hambanthota. On April 8, four Buddhist extremists approached the home of pastor Pradeep Kumara in Weeraketiya, Hambanthota district, calling for him to come out and threatening to kill him. The men phoned Kumara with direct threats later that day, and appeared outside his house again that night. “My children were frightened,” Kumara said. “I tried to reason with him to go away, but he continued to bang on the door and threaten us.” Earlier, on Palm Sunday (April 5), another group of men broke into the 150-year-old Pepiliyana Methodist Church in Colombo after congregants concluded an Easter procession. Witnesses said they saw them load valuable goods into a white van parked. “They removed everything,” said the Rev. Surangika Fernando.

Violence Hits India's Poll Stations

The Christian Post reports that India's monthlong elections have begun in violence. Maoist rebels attacked 14 polling stations, killing 17 civilians and security personnel. In spite of threats of violence, over half of people eligible to vote risked the polls, while 90 percent of the 3,000 Christians in a Kandhamal relief camp voted. Officials temporarily left recovery and rebuilding efforts in terrorized areas of Orissa state, the Christian Post said, to provide better polling station security. "I think they [anti-Christian politicians] are going to hear the voice of people that they're not in favor of this kind of abuse and hurting the minorities, especially the Christians. This election is going to bring some changes to the state of Orissa, and we're praying for that," said KP Yohannan, founder of Gospel For Asia.

Most U.S. Christians Don't Believe Satan, Holy Spirit, Exists

U.K.-based Christian Today reports that six out of 10 American Christians believe Satan is a "symbol of evil" rather than actual "living being," a new Barna study found. Only 35 percent said they believe that Satan is a living and real force of evil. Similar numbers said the Holy Spirit is a "symbol of God's power and presence" but not a "living entity." "Most Americans, even those who say they are Christian, have doubts about the intrusion of the supernatural into the natural world," said George Barna, founder of The Barna Group. "Hollywood has made evil accessible and tame, making Satan and demons less worrisome than the Bible suggests they really are," he said. "It's hard for achievement-driven, self-reliant, independent people to believe that their lives can be impacted by unseen forces."