Religion Today Summaries, April 3, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, April 3, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians
In Today's Edition:

  • 'Miracle' of American POW's Rescue
  • Iraqi Christians Find Strength Under Bombardment, See the Conflict as a Mixed Blessing
  • Anti-Conversion Bill Passes Without Debate
  • Church Wins Right to Worship

'Miracle' of American POW's Rescue
Eric Tiansay

(Charisma News) Family and friends of a 19-year-old Army private missing in action in Iraq for nine days are crediting God with her dramatic rescue. They say Jessica Lynch was found alive and safe, yesterday, partly due to the prayers of people from her tiny West Virginia town. Lynch's company was ambushed near Nasiriyah on March 23. Of that unit, two members have been confirmed dead. Five were shown on Iraqi TV as POWs. Eight others had been listed as missing, including Lynch. Her loved ones had clung to the hope that the military supply clerk had survived the ambush. Rodney Watson, Lynch's softball coach, said his fellow deacons got news of the rescue while attending a meeting at Elizabeth Baptist Church. "We all jumped up and grabbed each other, hugging everybody and giving thanks to our merciful Lord," he said. In a memory book her mother, Deadra, clutched and thumbed through while her daughter was missing, Lynch had expressed her faith in God. "If I could live my life all over again, I would most likely live it exactly the same," she wrote, the "Post" reported. "I believe everything happens for a purpose, whether God paralyzes a person or gives them a million dollars."

Iraqi Christians Find Strength Under Bombardment, See the Conflict as a Mixed Blessing
David Freeman

(Compass) “Your prayers for us have made a difference and continue to lift our spirits,” say Christians in Iraq even as they experience the bombardment of coalition forces. “The morale among people we have spoken to is higher than we expected,” said a Christian in contact with the church in Iraq. “On Sunday, some of our friends went to church in the morning. During the Lord’s Prayer, as they finished the words ‘and deliver us from evil,’ they heard a terrible explosion not far away. They know that God is with them, protecting and encouraging them.” One man said that at the beginning of the conflict, everyone in the congregation was feeling drained and worn down with fear, but as they felt God speaking to them, telling them to be encouragers for others, their strength returned, and they now feel stronger than they did before the war started. “We trust in God’s support, His protection and strength,” one Iraqi Christian said. For the many unofficial churches in Iraq, the start of hostilities has been a mixed blessing. With the attention of the authorities focused on the invasion and the aerial bombardment, there is somewhat less pressure on them.

Anti-Conversion Bill Passes Without Debate

(VOM Canada) Christians in the Indian state of Gujarat are shocked and vowing to continue to oppose an anti-conversion bill passed on March 26. According to Ecumenical News International, the bill passed without debate.  Ironically, this legislation is called the "Freedom of Religious Conversion Bill." It is modeled after similar restrictive legislation in Tamil Nadu.  The law provides for three years in prison for any conversion ruled to have been by "use of force or by allurement or by fraudulent means."  Any conversion must also receive prior approval from the head of the district or risk one year in prison.

Church Wins Right to Worship

(Charisma News) A Chicago-area church prohibited from worshiping in its own building, but allowed to party there, has won its suit against local officials. Federal Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer ruled Monday that the City of Evanston violated the rights of Vineyard Christian Fellowship in denying the church's use of its own building for worship services. "This is a great day for the First Amendment and a great victory for the church," executive pastor William Hanawalt said. "We have been diligently praying for justice to be served, and we are overjoyed by the judge's ruling in our favor." Since buying a former office building for $1.2 million in 1997, the congregation has had to lease a local high school for weekend services. The congregation sued the city in 2001 over a zoning ordinance that permits parties, plays and pageants at the church's facility, but no worship or prayer meetings. Vineyard's lawsuit contended that the ordinance violated the church's First Amendment and legal rights because although religious activities are not permitted in the area, cultural facilities are automatically permitted and membership organizations are allowed by special use.