Religion Today Summaries, August 18, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, August 18, 2004

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

  • Prayer, Protest Urged on Behalf of China's Persecuted Christians
  • Forty Thousand Christians Flee Iraq, Pope Offers Mediation
  • Columnist Demands Accused UNC Official's Resignation
  • Bush Talks Candidly About His Faith to Christian Journalists

Prayer, Protest Urged on Behalf of China's Persecuted Christians
Allie Martin, Agape Press

The Communist Chinese government continues to crack down on Christians who refuse to compromise their beliefs. Over 100 house church leaders and other Christians were arrested in China earlier this month. In the days following the raid, many family members of those arrested have also been taken into custody, and three other Christians have also been sentenced for exposing acts of persecution by Chinese officials. Todd Nettleton is a spokesman for Voice of the Martyrs, an international ministry that serves and advocates for persecuted Christians worldwide. "Basically the Chinese government is sending the message that no Christians are safe," Nettleton says. "If they don't register with the government, if they don't attend a registered church, they are subject to penalties -- arrest, interrogation, questioning, imprisonment." According to Chinese law, a person can be incarcerated for up to three years without being tried or even having formal charges filed against them. Still, Nettleton notes, the oppressed believers remain steadfast. "We have heard so many stories of Chinese Christians being a faithful witness while in prison," Nettleton says. Voice of the Martyrs urges concerned Christians not only to pray but to take action by speaking out on behalf of their persecuted brothers and sisters in China. Nettleton encourages American Christians to e-mail, fax, or write letters to the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC.

Forty Thousand Christians Flee Iraq, Pope Offers Mediation
Stefan Bos, ASSIST News Service

Tens of thousands of Christians have fled Iraq where fierce battles raged Tuesday August 17, between American forces and the Mahdi Army militia of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a government official confirmed. Displacement and Migration Minister, Pascale Isho Warda, the only Assyrian Christian in the country's interim government, said 40,000 Christians had already left Iraq since five church bombings blamed on Islamic militants killed up to 15 people two weeks ago, the French News Agency (AFP) reported. The number of fleeing Christians was much higher than previously estimated, and more believers were expected to follow amid signs of growing Muslim violence in areas such as the troubled town of Najaf, although the Vatican said late Tuesday, August 17, it was prepared to mediate a halt to the fighting. But Vatican spokesman Ciro Benedettini told reporters the Holy See was only willing to mediate if requested to do so by both sides in the conflict in what is seen as 'the Shiite holy city' in Iraq. "The Holy See, obviously, is always disposed to help the parties to talk to each other and have a dialogue, on condition there exists a real will to commit to a peaceful solution to the crisis," he said.

Columnist Demands Accused UNC Official's Resignation
Jim Brown, Agape Press

Just days after denying recognition to a Christian student group, the man at the center of a religious freedom controversy at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill is being accused of playing a role in the 1996 theft of a conservative student newspaper. At the UNC campus that year, someone stole 1,500 copies of The Carolina Review, a conservative student publication. Now Jon Curtis, UNC's assistant director for student activities and organizations, is being accused of helping liberal students steal the newspapers in an effort to influence the outcome of an election for student body president. columnist Mike Adams is calling upon UNC administrator Jonathan Curtis to resign, claiming he interfered with student groups instead of remaining neutral. Curtis' admitted that he let the thieves into the locked university office in the middle of the night, but UNC chancellor James Moeser is standing by his man. "It's extremely difficult for me and other rational thinkers to accept Jon Curtis's version of events," Adams says, "and this begs the question: why is Chancellor Moeser standing behind this person?" The accusations against the UNC official come amid controversy surrounding his decision to deny recognition and freeze funding to a Christian student group on campus, actions for which he has already come under fire.

Bush Talks Candidly About His Faith to Christian Journalists
Charisma News Service

During his presidency, President Bush has not shied away from spiritual matters, promoting his faith-based initiative and often quoting Scriptures surrounding tragedies such as the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the Columbia space shuttle disaster. Earlier this summer, Bush talked candidly to "Charisma" and eight other journalists representing religious publications concerning the Iraq war, his views on Islam, same-sex marriage and his personal Christian faith. Bush primed the May 26 interview with a lengthy opening statement and then allowed reporters to ask questions. "People say, 'When do you pray?'" Bush told said. "I pray all the time," he added. "You don't need a chapel to pray." When asked about his stance to defend traditional marriage, the president reiterated his support for the Federal Marriage Amendment, which the U.S. Senate failed to advance last month. Regarding another issue, the president was asked about the hardest aspect of the Iraq war for him personally, and how has his Christian faith affected his perception of the war. "The death. That's the hardest part of any war," Bush responded. "My faith sustains me because I ask for God's blessings, strength, forgiveness and love." The president added that his faith "helps keep perspective in the midst of noise, pressure, sound - all the stuff that goes on in Washington."