Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- College Students Focus on the Lost During 'Jesus Week' Observance
- Sri Lankan Re-opened Church Attacked on Easter Sunday
- Program Founder Promotes Released Time through Local Crusades
- Terror Faction in Falluja Threatens to Target Christians
College Students Focus on the Lost During 'Jesus Week' Observance
Jim Brown, Agape Press
Christian students at the University of Oklahoma have been placing a special emphasis on prayer and evangelism this week. Hundreds of students have been taking part in "Jesus Week" on the OU campus. The theme of the observance -- "The Return to Passion, Prayer, and Purpose" -- is based on Jeremiah 29:12-14. Events during the week, organized by leaders from various Christian student groups, have been focused on praying for and reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. Student body president Mary Millben, one of the lead organizers for Jesus Week, says students are seeking God with all of their heart and being brought out of their captivity. "Students are returning to a passion for the lost," Millben says. "[They are] returning to a passion for the Great Commission, which we're all called to do…; and how that passion then ties into…meditating on His will [and] on what God's purpose is for OU and for the lost here." Earlier in the week, actor Kirk Cameron and evangelist Ray Comfort preached to crowds on campus, provided Christian students with tips on how to share their passion for Jesus Christ with unbelievers, and encouraged the students to take advantage of every opportunity they get to do so.
Sri Lankan Re-opened Church Attacked on Easter Sunday
Sarah Page, Compass Direct
A Christian Fellowship Church (CFC) in the Kalutara district of Sri Lanka was attacked on April 11, Easter Sunday. About ten people, including women and children, were injured in the attack. The church had been closed for three months following an initial attack in late December 2003, when a mob of about 300 Buddhist villagers rushed into the church. A near-riot ensued, with police finally convincing the mob to disperse. When church members gathered on the following Sunday, they were attacked again by a much larger crowd. Representatives from the Buddhist temple and CFC church were then asked to sign an agreement for the “temporary” suspension of church services; however, no date was given when services could be resumed. “How long can we go on like this, keeping the church closed?” said Pastor Sunil, who resumed services on Good Friday despite the risk of a further attack.
Program Founder Promotes Released Time through Local Crusades
Jim Brown, Agape Press
A Christian outreach program that was started by a Tennessee pastor in 1990 to share the gospel with students in one public school is now being implemented throughout the United States. This May, more than 2,000 public school students in the Volunteer State are expected to attend an area-wide Christian crusade as part of the popular "released time" program. Students will hear Christian music and a gospel message during school time, but off school premises, at a local park. Pastor Gary Beeler, founder of Crusade Ministries, says when he began a released time outreach in Union County 14 years ago, he had no idea that his program would become a model implemented by hundreds of schools across the country. The founder of the program says it has dramatically improved the lives, and even the conduct, of local students. The idea of releasing public school students for devotional religious study off school premises in the U.S. was first discussed in 1905. But it wasn't until the 1990s that the term "released time" became widely used and the program took on the shape and characteristics of the national movement that exists today. Even though he is a full-time pastor, Beeler is now traveling the country and helping to organize more released time.
Terror Faction in Falluja Threatens to Target Christians
Barnabas News Fund
One of the Islamic rebel groups currently terrorising Falluja has called on the United Nations to stop the US siege of the town or the group would attack local Iraqi Christians. The threats came from ‘Saraya wal Mujahideen’ (Brigades and Mujahideen) in the form of a fax to Dubai-based Arab television channel Al Arabiya. The group threatened to destroy churches, assassinate or kidnap priests, and target local Christians. The threats to local Christians come amid the seizure of foreign nationals. Seven South Korean Christian missionaries were kidnapped on 8 April, but have since been released. In recent weeks, some 40 hostages from 12 countries have been seized in Iraq. Some have been released, but many are still being held.