Religion Today Summaries - April 21, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - April 21, 2006

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

  • 'Brutal' Oppression Highlighted Ahead of North Korea Freedom Week
  • White House Head of Faith-Based Initiatives Resigns
  • Another Christian Pastor, Scores of Muslims Jailed in Eritrea
  • New Apologetics Needed to Fight ‘New Atheism,’ other Faith Challenges, Bishop Says

'Brutal' Oppression Highlighted Ahead of North Korea Freedom Week

In North Korea, deep bows were made to a 75-foot statue of national founder Kim Il Sung Saturday while much of the communist nation languished in starvation and persecution with virtually no personal freedoms. According to The Christian Post, in a statement promoting North Korea Freedom Week, Charles W. Colson said, "Living here in the United States, it is hard for us to imagine that up to 200,000 people, including thousands of children, are held in the horrid political prison camps of North Korea. The religious and political oppression in North Korea is unimaginably brutal." North Korea Freedom Week is kicking off its second year this weekend with a concert across from the White House. Thousands of human rights activists and religious leaders from around the world will gather for the event which intends to give rise to the awareness of the brutal human rights situation in North Korea – ranked the worst persecutor on Open Doors World Watch List 2006.

White House Head of Faith-Based Initiatives Resigns

The head of the White House office of faith-based and community initiatives resigned to become president of St. Vincent College in Latrobe, Pa., The Christian Post reports. Jim Towey, who directed the faith-based office since 2002, announced his resignation Tuesday. “I’ll leave this office, after proudly serving here for four years, deeply grateful for the results and accomplishments that we’ve received,” said Towey. “I believe [the faith-based initiatives] have taken root.” Throughout his tenure, Towey has overseen the allocation of billions of federal dollars to religious charitable groups. Towey plans to stay in office until June 2 or until a new candidate can fulfill his position. St. Vincent - home to the largest Christian monastery in the world - is a liberal arts college with 1,600 students from Catholic, Jewish and Evangelical backgrounds.

Another Christian Pastor, Scores of Muslims Jailed in Eritrea

Besides the jailing of another Protestant pastor in February, authorities have also jailed 70 Muslims for opposing the government appointment of the chief mufti. According to a Compass Direct release, informed sources in Asmara confirmed in early April that the 70 Muslim prisoners arrested over the past two years are confined in one cell at the Wongel Mermera center. Most of the 28 jailed pastors and priests from the Protestant and Orthodox churches are also held at the Wongel Mermera center, where prison authorities have gathered them into one cell to keep them from “influencing other prisoners with the gospel.” Asmara sources have confirmed the arrest of Pastor Daniel Heilemichel of the Charismatic Word of Power Church, taken from his home on February 23. “His wife is in great distress,” a local Christian told Compass, noting that the couple had been married just a month prior to Heilemichel’s arrest.

New Apologetics Needed to Fight ‘New Atheism,’ other Faith Challenges, Bishop Says

Bishop Edward K. Braxton of Belleville, Ill. has cited four areas where a new apologetics (the branch of theology having to do with the defense and proofs of Christianity) is needed, says a Catholic Online story. To understand human tragedies such as last year's hurricanes and other disasters, "a few pages from When Bad Things Happen to Good People usually will not be sufficient," Bishop Braxton said, concerned particularly for teenagers. "Young Catholics are at a crossroads in their spiritual discernment. They may even question God's existence... [because] God is not God the way we would be God if we were God." Teens may find books like The Da Vinci Code, The Passover Plot, the "Left Behind" series, and more fascinating, Bishop Braxton said, and may visit Internet chat rooms to learn more. Therefore, a new apologetics, according to Bishop Braxton, would be on the internet, and counter the claims made in those works. Braxton's four areas where a new apologetics are needed are: to counter what he called "the new atheism"; to use during times of "human suffering and the search for meaning"; to understand "the rapid growth of Islam and the uniqueness of Christianity"; and to realize "the priority of Scripture and tradition."

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