Religion Today Summaries, April 1, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 1, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • Christians in Iraq Fear the “One Small Spark” That Will Ignite Anti-Christian Violence
  • Missing Soldier Known for 'Deep Faith,' Commitment to Church
  • Seminary Removes 'Offensive' U.S. Flags
  • Christian Peacemaker Threatened With Death Penalty by Indonesian Officials

Christians in Iraq Fear the “One Small Spark” That Will Ignite Anti-Christian Violence

(Charisma News) Leaders of the country's minority Christian community fear that it would only take "one small spark" such as an anti-Christian sermon in a mosque or an argument between Muslim and Christian neighbors to trigger violent attacks on Christians, according to The Barnabas Fund (BF). The U.K.-based group said that many believers have left Baghdad to return to their ancestral homelands in the north of the country until the war is over, while others have fled to Syria. With tensions high, some Christians no longer wear crosses openly in public for fear they would make them a target. Among violent incidents in recent months was the brutal murder and decapitation of a nun by a Muslim mob, said BF. Some Christians in Baghdad have been sheltering in churches, which have remained open despite the exodus.

Missing Soldier Known for 'Deep Faith,' Commitment to Church
Michael Foust

(Baptist Press) A soldier known for his deep Christian faith and involvement in his church is among a group of American soldiers whose whereabouts are unknown. Nolen Ryan Hutchings -- known as "Ryan" to friends -- is a member of Northbrook Baptist Church in Boiling Springs, S.C. The private was among seven Marines who were involved in operations on the outskirts of Nasiriyah in Iraq March 23; three of those soldiers have since been confirmed dead. "He had a deep faith in the Lord," Northbrook Baptist pastor Wayne Dickard told Baptist Press. "If he is alive -- and we hope and pray that he is -- then our prayer is that he will be returned to his family. "We're trying to encourage the family and pray for them. I can't imagine what they're facing." Hutchings was a member of the Northbrook Baptist youth group when it took mission trips to various states, holding Vacation Bible Schools and backyard Bible clubs. He had a Christ-like demeanor, Brown said.

Seminary Removes 'Offensive' U.S. Flags

(Charisma News) Officials at a Kentucky seminary have ordered American flags removed from its cafeteria tables, saying that "God's people do not wave flags as a sign of conquest." "A handful of people, from this country and others, felt that this was an offensive gesture and ... that being a Christian and a patriot do not go together," Gulf War veteran Jason Ballmes, the food services director at Asbury Theological Seminary, wrote on the interdenominational seminary's Web site message board last week. In a statement Friday, administrators at the central Kentucky seminary said the flags were removed because they are "not the most fitting way of representing this conflict." "God's people do not wave flags as the sign of conquest. We bear crosses as the sign of reconciliation," the statement said. Steve Moore, senior vice president of the seminary, said the flags were replaced with candles, which would better reflect people's wide-ranging feelings about the war. Other students said the flags should return. "They are making it to seem that this value is in conflict with the value of being a Christian," said Sean Levine, a student and U.S. Army reservist who is training to be a chaplain, the AP reported.

Christian Peacemaker Threatened With Death Penalty by Indonesian Officials

(Compass) Last month, the trial of Rev. Rinaldi Damanik was adjourned because the defendant had been admitted to a hospital with suspected liver disease. Damanik, the general secretary of the Central Sulawesi Protestant Church Synod, faces charges of possessing illegal weapons in connection with outbreaks of inter-religious violence in the Poso region in 1998. Minister of Justice and Human Rights Dr. Yusril Ihza Mahendra has now instructed the court to try Damanik to as a “provocateur,” a terrorism charge which could mean the death penalty for the respected peace mediator.  The trial will resume when Damanik is well enough to attend the court.  “He wants to attend the hearing so that the truth can be told about the violence and destruction in Central Sulawesi since December 1998,” said Mona Saroinsong, coordinator of the Crisis Center of the Protestant Church Synod of North and Central Sulawesi.