Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Growing Church Challenges, Overcomes Zoning Restrictions
- Indonesian Christians under Attack: 120 Wounded, 14 Dead
- Bolivia: Villagers Observe Truce Following Church Demolition
- ‘Vilified’ Christian Taking Network to Court for Profanity
Growing Church Challenges, Overcomes Zoning Restrictions
Allie Martin, Agape Press
A California city has agreed to adopt church-friendly zoning codes. The move came after one church challenged those codes and emerged a winner. Recently city officials in Claremont, California, denied a church's request for a conditional use permit to build a new worship center. The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI) intervened, writing a letter to the city on the church's behalf explaining that the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, passed by Congress in 2000, limits cities' ability to stymie church growth. In response, the City of Claremont not only reversed its decision, it also agreed to amend the municipal code to ensure that all religious assembly uses are treated equally in all zoning districts. PJI's Brad Dacus explains: "The zoning ordinances that they've had on the books were adopted long before the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act," he says. "Many churches are in a similar situation of having these old policies that are hostile and discriminatory against churches." The attorney says many cities are simply not aware of broad freedom given to churches by federal law. Dacus encourages churches that may be facing difficulties involving local government or zoning issues to contact the Pacific Justice Institute. "It is imperative that other cities follow Claremont's example and ensure that their local zoning codes do not place substantial burden on church growth," he adds.
Indonesian Christians under Attack: 120 Wounded, 14 Dead
International Christian Concern
On Sunday April 25, 2004 violence erupted in Ambon, Indonesia when Christians were attacked by Muslims, and thus far at least 14 people are dead. At least 120 people have been injured, and several churches and other buildings were set on fire. According to one report, two hundred elite Mobile Brigade police have arrived to restore order and ensure the clashes did not escalate into another bout of long-term bloodletting. However, although police are now claiming that everything is under control, Christians in the area are reporting that this is untrue. According to a Catholic priest in the region, a Catholic church in Ambon was been set on fire Monday morning in a Christian neighborhood and a Protestant church university was burned to the ground. Christians have fled and Muslim gangs are attempting to break through to Kuda Mati, which is seen as a nest of Christian militants. "There are no security forces on the spot, whereas the Christians themselves have no weapons left to defend themselves," he said. Apparently the violence is still raging, and at least two people have been hacked to death.
Bolivia: Villagers Observe Truce Following Church Demolition
Quechua-speaking villagers in Bolivia are living under an uneasy truce two months after an irate mob destroyed the sole evangelical church in their remote Andean community. On March 9, town officials in Chucarasi signed an accord with members of the local Church of God that obliges the evangelicals to “respect” traditional animist customs in return for the right to continue holding worship services in the community. However, the congregation is not allowed to rebuild its demolished chapel. A special commission composed of police, military and judiciary officials, along with representatives of the ecumenical association Churches United, hammered out the agreement during day-long negotiations with Chucarasi townspeople. Due to community pressure, three of the evangelicals declared their intention to return to animist practice, church planter Gregorio Conde said. But the majority of the 36-member congregation remains firm in their faith. “We declared in the meeting that, although we might die for it, we are going to follow Christ,” Conde said.
‘Vilified’ Christian Taking Network to Court for Profanity
In what could be a landmark case, an evangelical Christian is taking a major Australian TV network to court over the use of profanity. The focus of the case is a new law being used by religious groups that feel vilified. Andre van der Linden says it is time Christianity was afforded the same respect in the media as other religions. To back that statement, he is taking advantage of the State of Victoria's two-year-old anti-discrimination law. The 63-year-old van der Linden, a retired teacher, tells Cybercast News he has been complaining to television stations for five years about the use of the Lord's name as a swear word in programs, but to no avail. He says the usual response is that such language reflects community standards. But as van der Linden puts it, "They must move in a different community from mine." A few years ago, the State Parliament put a structure in place which allows citizens to seek redress if they feel they are being vilified on religious or racial grounds.