Religion Today Summaries, August 13, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 13, 2003

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

  • Lord's Resistance Army Orders Killing of Christian Leaders
  • Presbyterian Youth Want to Talk About Sex, Just Not All the Time
  • Blasphemy Conviction of Two Christians Upheld by Pakistani Court
  • Christians Urge U.S. to Use Influence to Protect Faith in India

'Lord's Resistance Army' Orders Killing of Christian Leaders
Barnabas Fund News

The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a brutal rebel group that has terrorized northern Uganda for seventeen years, has begun specifically targeting Christians.  Their leader Joseph Kony (who claims to be guided by messages from angels) has ordered the killing of Christian leaders across the denominations. Barbaric and terrifying attacks against civilians are now occurring on an almost daily basis as part of a new wave of violence launched by the group.  Refugees and local church leaders report that from the end of last year the Islamic extremist Government of Sudan began once again to back the LRA.  Ammunition, guns, military equipment and supplies provided by Sudan have enabled the LRA to unleash its latest wave of terror. The LRA is fighting to overthrow the Ugandan government and set up a state based on the Ten Commandments.  The group is notorious for its widespread use of child soldiers.  Some 20,000 Ugandan children are believed to have been kidnapped and cruelly abused by the group.  Children are severely beaten and systematically raped, forced to fight and kill for the LRA and to savagely discipline (even murder) other children.  Many are mutilated, having hands, noses, ears and lips amputated.  A whole generation has been left with a legacy of trauma and suffering which will affect northern Uganda for many years to come.

Presbyterian Youth Want to Talk About Sex, Just Not All the Time
Kevin Eckstrom, Religion News Service

Young members of the Presbyterian Church, like their cohorts in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, want their church to talk about sex -- just not all the time.  More than 500 high school students met in Louisville July 28-Aug. 3 for the Presbyterian Youth Connection Assembly. The delegates defeated a resolution that called on the larger church to "postpone the issue of the ordination of homosexuals." The youth also voted to "affirm the call of homosexuals, bisexuals and transgendered persons to all areas of ministry." The 2.5 million-member church does not allow noncelibate gays and lesbians to serve as church officers. Youth delegates said they do not want the church to become so focused on sexuality that it neglects other important issues.  "While the committee agrees that this issue should not take center stage, we feel it should stay on the table, as painful as it may be," said A. J. Piccone of the Hudson River Presbytery in New York. "We seek to discern God's will throughout continued discussion." The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's youth organization voted overwhelmingly to welcome members of all sexual orientations and to be listed as a "Reconciling in Christ" organization that is gay-friendly.

Blasphemy Conviction of Two Christians Upheld by Pakistani Court
Voice of the Martyrs News

A Pakistani court has upheld the conviction of two Christians accused of committing blasphemy against the Islamic holy book. The Lahore High Court has agreed with prosecution arguments that Amjad and Asif Masih set fire to a copy of the Koran while detained at a police station in February 1999. The court stated that, "The act of the accused was calculated to out-rage the religious feelings of the Muslim(s)." The court also said, "There is not even a remote possibility that the police officials who were all Muslims could willfully dare or even think of desecrating the Holy Quran in the manner it was done." Amjad and Asif were originally arrested under a false charge of vagrancy. They claim Muslim police officers framed them and set fire to the Islamic holy book because the two street sweepers refused to pay them a $300 bribe. The two Christians received life sentences--the maximum penalty for desecration of the Koran under Pakistan's blasphemy law. Amjad and Asif are expected to appeal the Lahore court decision to Pakistan's Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has regularly reversed the blasphemy case rulings of lower courts that are often threatened by radical Islamic groups to uphold false blasphemy convictions.

Christians Urge U.S. to Use Influence to Protect Faith in India
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

Indian Christians have asked the United States to do more to protect religious rights in India, where there has been a resurgence of attacks against religious minorities, an Indian evangelical bishop said during a meeting with State Department officials last Friday. At a meeting on Capitol Hill, Bishop Ezra Sargunam, presiding bishop of the Evangelical Church of India, submitted a memorandum on behalf of the Social Justice Movement of India highlighting alleged human rights violations. Noting that the ruling party has changed tactics toward religious minorities by introducing legislation such as the Anti-Conversion Law, which punishes Indians who convert to Christianity by revoking the rights and privileges accorded to certain tribes and castes upon their conversion, Sargunam asked U.S. officials to exert pressure on the Indian government to counter what he called a dangerous trend.  In addition to the Anti-Conversion law, the bishop cited recent attacks on Christian priests.  The U.S. administration's reluctance to address the continuing human rights violations against religious minorities, Dalits or members of the untouchable caste, and other oppressed groups has been a source of frustration for Indian Christians. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom has not been permitted to conduct an official visit to India.