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:

  • Imprisoned Chinese Church Founder Near Death
  • Liberian Chaos Hampers Humanitarian Aid Efforts
  • Canadian Christian Leader Claims Charges 'Trumped Up'
  • Six Anglican Missionaries Killed in the Solomons

Imprisoned Chinese Church Founder Near Death
Charisma News Service

The imprisoned founder of the unregistered South China Church (SCC) who was reportedly near death after repeated torture is still alive. Recently beaten into a coma by prison officials, suffering internal injuries, Gong Shengliang is serving a life sentence on bogus rape and assault charges. According to the World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission (WEARLC), two relatives, including a sister of Shengliang, recently visited him. "One sister was refused permission to visit because some of her speech during her last visit was religious," a source told WEARLC. "Pastor Gong was separated from his visitors by glass. He was very fragile, pale, weak and thin, with cheekbones protruding. He was unable to speak one single word, but it is not known if this was because he was not permitted to speak or because he was not physically able to speak." Authorities confirmed that Shengliang had spent some time in hospital. Meanwhile, a U.S. federal agency that planned to examine religious freedom in China called off its visit this week after the Chinese authorities imposed "unacceptable last-minute conditions" on the trip. Communist Party officials did not offer assurances that members of the Commission on International Religious Freedom would be able to visit places of worship and talk with non-government religious leaders without interference.

Liberian Chaos Hampers Humanitarian Aid Efforts
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

Days after Liberian President Charles Taylor ceded power, humanitarian efforts in the Liberian capital of Monrovia are still being impeded by fuel shortages and security problems, Christian aid organizations said. As the city struggles to get back on its feet, new attacks by rebel groups have raised fears that insurgents may attempt to take power following Taylor's exile even as Liberia's main rebel group, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, signed a peace accord promising to pull back completely from the capital. "Even as peacekeepers are being deployed, days and weeks of battle between rebel forces and government over control of Monrovia ... has left tens of thousands of people destitute," the Rev. Franklin Ishida, director of international communication for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said. Earlier this month, ELCA members contributed $50,000 of the church's international relief fund to support relief efforts in Liberia. Baptist World Aid has also renewed its appeal for aid in Liberia after sending $10,000 for food aid and ministry to people who sought shelter at the Baptist Seminary in Monrovia. The struggle to distribute food and medical supplies to thousands of displaced Monrovians has been complicated by widespread looting and destruction. Several hospitals have been nearly destroyed. Inflation has made scarce food and fuel prohibitively expensive.

Canadian Christian Leader Claims Charges 'Trumped Up'
Dan Wooding, Assist News Service

Bruce Balfour, 52, the Canadian Christian field director of Cedars of Lebanon, a ministry that was planning to help replenish the mighty Cedars of Lebanon in the mountains of northern Lebanon, claims that charges against him for "collaborating with the enemy" (Israel) have been "trumped up." In a message from his cell in a prison just outside of Beirut, Balfour said, "The case against me is completely trumped up and they continue to break many international laws and treaties while laughing at the world in complete disdain...International law is being violated flagrantly and world precedent will be set in this case." Balfour was arrested on July 10th after arriving in Beirut on a British Airways flight from London. In a message, Balfour said, "I was arrested because a computer entry said that I have been in Israel at one time, which is true. But please tell me where the crime in this is. My freedom has been taken away and I have been treated horribly. This is against all international law and moral code of every civilized country in the world. I need to get out of here now. Every hour multiples the possibility of me being moved to another location and disappearing forever."

Six Anglican Missionaries Killed in the Solomons
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

Six Anglican missionaries who were taken hostage four months ago in the Solomon Islands by warlord Harold Keke have been killed, a senior member of their Anglican order said Monday. "Yesterday our worst fears were confirmed," Richard Carter, chaplain to the Melanesian Brotherhood, said in a message to supporters. The six members of the brotherhood set off from Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands, last April to look for another member of the order, Brother Nathaniel Sado, who is now thought to have been murdered. Keke is thought to have seized the six men to use as human shields in case the peacekeepers attacked his forces. It is believed they were later killed by one of the warlord's lieutenants. "These were six innocent brothers who went out in faith and love in search of their brother," Carter said. "It seems too much to bear that they should have been murdered in cold blood." The Melanesian Brotherhood is an order of evangelists founded by a Solomon Islander in 1925 that ministers mostly in Melanesia and Australia. A full investigation of Keke's crimes, including the murder of 50 people last year, is under way.