Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
- National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional, Judge Rules
- Nigeria: Pastors Buried in Bauchi as Tension Continue
- Chinese Lawyer Gets Religious Liberty Award
- More Help Needed for Cyclone Victims in Bangladesh and India
National Day of Prayer Unconstitutional, Judge Rules
Religion News Service reports that a federal district judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the 1988 law creating the annual observance of the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional. "It goes beyond mere `acknowledgement' of religion because its sole purpose is to encourage all citizens to engage in prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this context," U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled Thursday. The Madison, Wis.-based Freedom from Religion Foundation, which filed suit in 2008 to stop the prayer day, hailed the decision as a "sweet victory." The White House issued a statement Thursday on Twitter saying: "As he did last year, President Obama intends to recognize a National Day of Prayer." The American Center for Justice, which filed a brief in the case supporting the law on behalf of 31 members of Congress, called the decision "flawed" and predicted it could end up before the Supreme Court.
Nigeria: Pastors Buried in Bauchi as Tension Continue
Chrisian Solidarity Worldwide reports that funerals were held Friday for a pastor and his wife in Buachi State, Nigeria. Pastor and Mrs. Ishaya Kada of the Church of Christ in Nigerian (COCIN) Boto in Tafawa Balewa were hacked to death and burnt to ashes by Muslim assailants on April 12. The couple had only recently returned to the area after their church was burnt down in January by Muslim refugees from Jos. The search for their killers continues. Meanwhile, tensions persist in Plateau State after a suspected bomb exploded prematurely on April 12 in a room in the Dadin Kuwa area of Jos. The bombing severely injured three young Muslims, who are currently being interrogated in hospital. The continuing attacks and "silent killings" during curfew hours have caused many to question the army's willingness or ability to protect them.
Chinese Lawyer Gets Religious Liberty Award
Baptist Press reports that Fan Yafeng, a Chinese human rights lawyer and religious liberty advocate, has received the 2009 John Leland Religious Liberty Award for his defense of persecuted Christians in China. Richard Land, president of Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, presented the award during an April 14 ceremony at the U.S. Capitol. Land described Fan as "a courageous defender of persecuted Christians in China, including the defense of house church pastors and Christian lay leaders." Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., and Bob Fu, president of ChinaAid Association, were among those in attendance. The ERLC's John Leland Religious Liberty Award is presented each year to an individual who has significantly aided to the cause of religious liberty. Leland, an 18th-century Baptist preacher and evangelist, was instrumental in the guarantee of religious liberty as secured in the U.S. Constitution's Bill of Rights.
More Help Needed for Cyclone Victims in Bangladesh and India
ASSIST News Service reports that Gospel for Asia teams are already on the ground caring for the victims of a powerful cyclone that ravaged Bangladesh and its neighbor, West Bengal, India. The cyclone killed 89 people and destroyed 60,000 homes, bringing down houses, trees, and telephone lines as it swept through the eastern state which borders Bangladesh. "The storm ripped through four blocks of North Dinajpur district, about 600 kilometers north of Kolkata," said West Bengal minister of state for civil defense Srikumar Mukherjee. Many of the victims were smothered by collapsing buildings. Local schools and government offices are being used to shelter those left homeless and aid is being rushed to the area. The storm was reportedly an extreme form of what is locally known as a "nor'wester," a weather pattern that develops over the nearby Bay of Bengal during the hot months of the year.