Religion Today Summaries, August 17, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 17, 2004

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

  • Hagee Urges Prayer, Practical Assistance for Nation of Israel
  • Churches Devastated by Hurricane Held Services Wherever Possible
  • Vietnam: Distress, Harassment Continue For Montagnards
  • Florida Pastors Forbidden from Invoking God's Name in Prayer

Hagee Urges Prayer, Practical Assistance for Nation of Israel
Jim Brown, Agape Press

A popular television preacher from Texas says Christians of all denominations should be sending support to Israel. Dr. John Hagee says because God created and defends Israel, and because Israel is the apple of His eye, going to war against the Jewish state is going to war against God Himself.  The pastor of 17,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio says many professing Christians have forgotten that Israel's war on worldwide terrorism is the same war that America is fighting.  He describes Yasser Arafat and Osama bin Laden as "twin terrorists." Hagee says contrary to the secular humanist view that Palestinians are an oppressed people, Israel never belonged to the Palestinians. All Christians, the pastor says, should do what they can to be a blessing to the Jewish nation.  He says there are several things believers can do to show their support for God's chosen people. "First, the Bible says to 'Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," Hagee says.  "The second thing is to go to Israel personally to see the land, to walk where Jesus walked, [and] to experience what He experienced -- because there is a spiritual explosion that happens." A third suggestion, Hagee adds, is that every church in America do something in a practical sense to be of assistance to Israel.  Over the past three years, Hagee's ministry has given $5 million to bring Russian Jews to Israel.

Churches Devastated by Hurricane Held Services Wherever Possible
Charisma News Service

The strongest hurricane to strike the United States mainland since 1992 could not keep Christians from meeting together to worship God this Sunday. Churches in the battered Southwest Florida made do amid the wreckage that Hurricane Charley left behind after making landfall in the area last Friday. The Category 4 storm is responsible for at least 17. Punta Gorda, a retirement community of about 15,000 people, bore the brunt of Charley's force as winds gusted to 180 mph in the city. Church services there were held wherever possible, including in a parking lot, a courtyard and a community hall. "I believe that God is at work, even in Charley," Scott Borden, pastor of First Alliance Church, told dozens who turned up in the courtyard of the church to pray and comfort one another. The storm left the First Alliance sanctuary in tatters. Meanwhile, more than 40 members of the Eastside Baptist Church - one-third of the congregation - gathered in their sanctuary, which was untouched by Charley's wrath. By the time Eastside's 45-minute service ended, members were praising God for preserving the building so it could be turned into a sanctuary for the hurting. "We need practice loving our neighbors as ourselves," Pastor Mowry prayed. "Now is the time we can minister to the folks who need us."

Vietnam: Distress, Harassment Continue For Montagnards
Compass Direct

Government authorities continue to apply unrelenting pressure on tribal Christians in the Central Highlands of Vietnam. The most recent phase of the long-standing conflict commenced in April 2004, when thousands of Montagnards joined protests against the confiscation of tribal lands and the severe repression of the Christian faith. The government subsequently sent a special "peace corps" to the poverty-stricken region. But the corps really serves as "spies and guards," according to sources in Vietnam. After its arrival, eight men in Dak Lak province were arrested and severely beaten. Church sources report that eight men were killed in Gia Lai province; four were shot and four were beaten to death. In July, 198 Montagnard refugees were airlifted from the Cambodian border province of Ratanakiri to Phnom Penh. One Vietnamese source told Compass that the rescue operation could encourage others to flee Vietnam. "It's hard to describe the desperation people are feeling," he said. "Vietnamese authorities tell everyone that the highlands are a place of peace, happiness and ethnic equality. But in reality they make it a hell for the Montagnards."

Florida Pastors Forbidden from Invoking God's Name in Prayer
Agape Press

Just north of Punta Gorda, Florida, pastors have been told they can no longer pray in the name of Jesus when asked to open city council meetings with prayer.  The St. Petersburg Times says for years, pastors in the Tampa, Florida, area have given invocations at council meetings that praised Jesus Christ and referred to Him as the "only God" or the "highest authority."  But council chairwoman Gwen Miller sent a memo recently that said all invocations must now be nonsectarian.