Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world. In today's edition:
- Homes for the Homeless in Tsunami-Stricken Tamil Nadu
- Relief Organization Affirms Commitment To Sudan
- Indonesian Sunday School Teachers' Case Goes to High Court
- Bible Course Taught in Public Schools Found to Characterize Bible as Inspired by God
Homes for the Homeless in Tsunami-Stricken Tamil Nadu
Allie Martin, Agape Press
Thanks to a Texas-based ministry, hundred of families in South India left homeless by December's tsunami will have a roof over their heads. It has been more than seven months since the deadly Southeast Asian tsunami killed hundreds of thousands in 12 countries. In one fishing village along the coastline of Tamil Nadu, India, more than 400 people died -- and many more lost their homes in a part of the world where homeowner's insurance does not exist. That's why Gospel For Asia is helping villagers rebuild their homes. GFA Pastor Ebenezer says the building project is another way to show Christ's love to tsunami victims. According to the pastor, the disaster left many survivors searching for answers. "They really do not know what the future holds for them," he shares. "But in spite of that, they are actively involved in these constructions. We allow them to help us with the construction. We put the money in and we have builders that we have hired, but then they also pitch in and work -- you know, carry sand or mix cement and do whatever they are able to do. And they've been very, very helpful." Each house being built costs approximately $4,000 and takes six weeks to build. GFA hopes to build 500 homes in the area.
Relief Organization Affirms Commitment To Sudan
Assist News Service
Following the death of John Garang, the recently sworn-in vice president of the new Sudanese government, one relief organization said it is committed to working toward a lasting peace in the conflict-torn nation. In a news release from Lutheran World Relief (LWR), the charity offered its condolences and affirmed its commitment to the people of Sudan. “John Garang’s unfortunate and tragic death makes an already precarious peace agreement that much more vulnerable,” said LWR president Kathryn Wolford in the news release. “Now, more than ever, the international community needs to maintain both its political pressure on all sides to honor their commitments, and its support for the vital humanitarian and reconstruction efforts the region will need if lasting peace can truly be achieved. The people of Sudan deserve nothing less and we must not allow this tragedy to undo the prospects for reconciliation.” Garang, who had been the leader of the Sudanese People's Liberation Movement (SLM), the rebel movement in Southern Sudan, was a signatory to the Comprehensive Peace Accord that in January ended the 21-year battle between north and south. On July 9, he became the First Vice- President of Sudan, as the new government agreed upon in the Peace Accord took effect. He died recently in a helicopter crash returning to Sudan from an official visit to neighboring Uganda. He was 60 years old.
Indonesian Sunday School Teachers' Case Goes to High Court
Sarah Page, Compass Direct
With angry hecklers in the West Java courtroom calling them liars, three Indonesian women accused of trying to convert Muslim children tried to defend themselves. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun were questioned about activities and materials used in their Christian education program for children from an elementary school. Bangun explained that the children prayed, read the Bible, sang and sometimes colored pictures. In response, Judge Hasby J. Tholib said the women should never have allowed Muslim children to attend the program. Bangun and Zakaria replied that they had no hidden agenda and had been completely honest with the children's parents, who gave full consent to the program -- though none will come forward to say so now. Before the hearing ended, the prosecuting attorney announced that the case would be transferred to the High Court, a move that could considerably lengthen the trial.
Bible Course Taught in Public Schools Found to Characterize Bible as Inspired by God
A group whose stated goal is "to counter the religious right" complains that a Bible course taught in hundreds of public schools promotes a fundamentalist Christian view and violates religious freedom. The Texas Freedom Network, which includes clergy, says it asked Southern Methodist University biblical scholar Mark Chancey to review the course offered by the National Council on Bible Curriculum in Public Schools. Chancey found that the course characterizes the Bible as inspired by God, that discussions of science are based on the biblical account of creation, that Jesus is referred to as fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, and that archaeological findings are erroneously used to support claims of the Bible's historical accuracy. The producers of the Bible class dismiss the Texas Freedom Network as a "far left" organization trying to suppress study of an important historical text.