Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 16, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 16, 2010

Daily briefs of the top Christian news and persecution stories impacting believers around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Obama: Muslims Have Right to Build Place of Worship Near 9/11 Site

  • Tanzanian Court Acquits Two Evangelists of ‘Illegal Preaching

  • Churches Come up Short as Delegates' Visas Denied

  • Mob Threats Lead to Closure of Church Building in Indonesia



Obama: Muslims Have Right to Build Place of Worship near 9/11 Site


The Christian Post reports that months into an emotionally-charged debate surrounding the planned mosque and community center near the site of the 9/11 attacks, President Obama declared his support Friday night for the Muslim house of worship. "Let me be clear. As a citizen, and as President, I believe that Muslims have the same right to practice their religion as everyone else in this country," he said to applause at the White House. "And that includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in Lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances. His remarks were made at an Iftar dinner to observe the start of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. "This is America," Obama proclaimed. "And our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakeable." This is the first time the U.S. president weighed in on the controversy over a project called Park51 in lower Manhattan. Muslim Americans are building a community center and mosque two blocks from Ground Zero, where nearly 3,000 people died in the 2001 terrorist attacks. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, who founded Muslim outreach group the Cordoba Initiative, is spearheading the project. Organizers insist that it is part of an effort to promote tolerance and improve Muslim-West relations.

Tanzanian Court Acquits Two Evangelists of ‘Illegal Preaching'


A Tanzanian court yesterday acquitted two evangelists of "illegal preaching." After 10 months of hearings, a Kariakoo area court in Dar es Salaam closed the case against Anglican Christians Eleutery Kobelo and Cecil Simbaulanga, who were arrested in October 2009 after Muslims invited them to participate in a religious debate at which the opponents did not appear, but authorities did. The two evangelists maintained that no Muslims showed up to the neutral site of the supposed inter-faith debate until Islamists arrived with government security agents who charged them with "using religious sermons to incite Muslims and Christians into viewing each other with suspicion." The accusers had claimed that the Christians' message that Jesus is God had annoyed Muslims and therefore disrupted a peaceful coexistence between those of the two faiths. Kobelo told Compass Direct by telephone that the Muslims failed to show up in court to support their allegation of illegal preaching. After the verdict, Christians shouting for joy greeted the evangelists as they left the courtroom, he said. "We are grateful that that the court has done justice and made its ruling based on Tanzania's constitution that allows for freedom of religion and assembly," Kobelo said. "We thank the Christians worldwide for praying for us."

Churches Come up Short as Delegates' Visas Denied


When the Baptist World Alliance held its global conference in Hawaii earlier this month, it was missing about 1,000 attendees from around the world. In June, the inaugural meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches in Grand Rapids, Mich., was missing 74, and the Seventh-day Adventists' General Conference in Atlanta was missing about 200. The three church groups told Religion News Service foreign delegates' visas were denied by U.S. officials, meaning some nations lacked representation at the global assemblies that occur only once every several years. "I was deeply saddened" by the visa problems, said the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, the former president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, which merged with another group in Grand Rapids to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches. "I don't think you hear of government events or corporate events that have this percentage of people denied visas." A lot of it had to do with money, he believes, saying "the criteria (for securing visas) are so skewed to the financial status of people involved." Church officials say they fully complied with State Department rules on international visas for visiting delegates -- particularly providing evidence visitors would return to their country of origin once the meetings ended.

Mob Threats Lead to Closure of Church Building in Indonesia

Police and local government officials joined forces with a Muslim mob to close a church in North Sumatra Province on July 30, with church leaders forced to promise never to hold services at the site. The Rev. Leritio Panjaitan of the Binanga HKBP (Huria Kristen Batak Protestant) Church on the Gunung Tua-Sibuhan Highway in Siboris Dolok Village, Sipirok, North Sumatra Province said government officials and mobs threatened to burn the facility if worship continued there. Pastor Panjaitan told Compass Direct rejection of the church was aided by the presence of a Quranic boarding school, Darul Hasnah Madrassa, which appeared in the vicinity six months ago. "I have received information that the leader of that madrassa [Islamic school], Dr. Gong Matua Siregar, has incited citizens to reject the presence of the church," she said, adding that a local government official admitted to her that the head of the madrassa had pressured him to close the church. Pastor Panjaitan added that the church had applied for a building and worship permit long ago but that authorities had not acted on it, and that all necessary administrative requirements had been fulfilled. The closure means 80 people have lost their worship place. Local government officials and Muslim clerics warned church leaders that unless the congregation stopped meeting at the site, they would not be responsible if protestors burned the church.