Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 6, 2009

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Aug. 6, 2009

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

  • Police in Bangladesh Torture Pastor, Two Others
  • Oldest Known Portrait of St. Paul Revealed
  • No Pardons for Thousands of North Korean Prisoners
  • Global Distribution of Scripture Drops Slightly


Police in Bangladesh Torture Pastor, Two Others

Compass Direct News reports that police in western Bangladesh have tortured a pastor and two other Christians for legally proclaiming Christ at the urging of local Muslim leaders,. Habibur Rahman, 45, pastor of Boalia Spiritual Church (Boalia Ruhani Jamat) in Boalia in Cuadanga district, 220 kilometers (136 miles) west of Dhaka, said he was about to meet with 11 others for a monthly meeting on evangelism at 8 p.m. on June 8 when local police stormed in and seized him and Zahid Hassan, 25, and a 40-year-old Christian identified only as Fazlur. Police blindfolded them and took them to Shamvunagar police camp. “While beating us, police told us there will be no Christian in this area,” the pastor said. “Police hurt our hands, lips, thighs and faces with burning cigarettes. They beat me in the joints of my limbs with a wooden club. They beat us for one hour, and I became senseless at some point.”

Oldest Known Portrait of St. Paul Revealed

The U.K.-based Times Online reports that Vatican archaeologists have revealed what they believe to be the oldest known portrait of St. Paul. The portrait, which is in accord with later depictions of the apostle, dates to the 4th century. The discovery and restoration of the portrait was “an extraordinary event,” said Monsignor Gianfranco Ravasi, head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. Archaeologists found the artifact in the catacombs of St. Thecla, nearby the Basilica of St. Paul's Outside the Walls. The Vatican recently confirmed further evidence that the remains at the site are the apostle's, corroborating centuries of tradition. The discovery comes just days after the end of a "Pauline year," when the Vatican again focused on the apostle's message and ministry.

No Pardons for Thousands of North Korean Prisoners

Christian News Wire reports that two U.S. journalists have returned home to their friends and family, but thousands of other political prisoners remain behind bars in North Korea. According to Open Doors USA, an international watchdog for the persecuted church, North Korea is suspected of detaining more political and religious prisoners than any other country in the world. An estimated 200,000 are behind bars. That number includes 40,000-60,000 Christians. North Koreans can be imprisoned for virtually any state-defined crime such as owning a Bible, making a negative comment about the regime, failing to have a picture of Kim Il-Sung in their house and traveling to China to look for food and freedom. The country has ranked at the top of Open Doors' Watch list for seven years in a row.

Global Distribution of Scripture Drops Slightly

ASSIST News Service reports that world distribution of the Bible and Scripture portions has dropped slightly since last year. According to the United Bible Societies, based in Reading, England, the 145 member societies distributed more complete Bibles in 2008 than in the previous year but fewer portions and Scripture elections. Almost 28.5 million complete Bibles were distributed, roughly 5 percent more than in 2007 (27 million). The result for New Testaments was 11.6 million in 2008 and 13 million in the previous year – a decline of 11 percent. The distribution of Bible portions fell by 5 percent from 16.2 million in 2007 to 15.4 million in 2008. In all, 382 million Scriptures were distributed last year compared to 391 million in 2007.