Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- Pakistani Woman Sentenced for Blasphemy in Poor Health
- Japan Aftershock Rocks Survivors' Peace of Mind
- Obama’s Religious Freedom Ambassador Closer to Nomination
- Supreme Court to Hear Important Religious-Freedom Case
Pakistani Woman Sentenced for Blasphemy in Poor Health
Christian Today reports that Asia Bibi, the first Pakistani woman sentence to death on blasphemy charges, has fallen gravely ill with chicken pox. The Christian woman's harsh sentence has drawn international attention, but she has yet to receive any change in her sentence. Haroon Barket Masih, president of the Masih Foundation, said Bibi had been kept in solitary confinement for more than three months. The foundation is funding Bibi's legal appeal. “She fell ill with chickenpox because of the dirty environment, and being unable to clean her room or bed sheets on which she sleeps," he said. Despite her health, Bibi often fasts and "prays for everyone." Masih said she has not received any medical care while in prison.
Japan Aftershock Rocks Survivors' Peace of Mind
Mission News Network reports that Thursday's 7.4 magnitude earthquake in Japan caused very little damage, but wreaked havoc on survivors' peace of mind. "We have still not yet had any word on any additional damage, or any additional loss of life, or any other issue that would be supplementary to the initial quake and tsunami," said Matt Panos with Food For the Hungry. However, four to six million people are still without access to food and water after the devastating March 11 earthquake, making continuing aftershocks all the more ominous. "At this point the supply chains that are in place that are bringing supplies in, food and water, that are connected to literally hundreds of small Japanese churches around Japan that we've already been funneling money to," Panos said. "They're developing their supply chains, they're buying supplies and water, and they're moving them into the northeastern part of Japan."
Obama’s Religious Freedom Ambassador Closer to Nomination
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a confirmation hearing for President Obama’s nominee for ambassador for international religious freedom in late March that brings the nominee closer to confirmation. WORLD News Service reports that the nominee, New York pastor Suzan Johnson Cook, failed to make it past her first confirmation hearing in November 2010, with the committee letting her nomination expire at the end of the congressional session. But the vacancy has become more problematic as religious freedom issues have taken center stage in the crises in the Middle East. The White House chided the Senate at the beginning of the year for allowing a “well-qualified nominee” to languish, though it took President Obama a year and a half to nominate Cook in the first place. He nominated her again in February, despite concerns from religious freedom advocates that she lacks experience in the area of international religious freedom.
Supreme Court to Hear Important Religious-Freedom Case
The Supreme Court has consented to hear a case that Notre Dame law professor Rick Garnett calls “the most important religious-freedom case in 20 years.” According to case records, Cheryl Perich, a teacher at a Lutheran Church school in Michigan, took medical leave in 2004. When she sought to return to work, she was told a substitute would complete the academic year. Perich was ultimately fired in the ensuing acrimony. The courts have generally held that religious organizations must be free from government interference when hiring and firing “ministerial employees” such as pastors, ministers, and teachers. A lower court held that Perich was not a “ministerial employee” since she mostly taught subjects like math and social studies. But Perich taught religion classes four times weekly among other religious duties at the school. The court will have to define which employees are "ministerial" and how far the state may intrude on church employment decisions.