Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 16, 2010

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Dec. 16, 2010

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Obama Embraces 'Christian' Label after Worrisome Polls
  • Iraq Builds Walls around Churches to Improve Security
  • Vietnam Officials Beat Pastor, Bulldoze Bible School
  • Pakistan: Christian Faces Death Threats for Marrying Muslim

Obama Embraces 'Christian' Label after Worrisome Polls

When President Obama lit the National Christmas Tree behind the White House last year, he spoke of a "child born far from home" and said "while this story may be a Christian one, its lesson is universal." According to Religion News Service, the president referenced that same "child born far from home" this year, but added a more personal twist: "It's a story that's dear to Michelle and me as Christians." What changed? For one, three separate polls in the past year have found that one in four Americans think the president is a Muslim, 43 percent don't know what faith he follows, and four in 10 Protestant pastors don't consider Obama a Christian. Stephen Mansfield, author of "The Faith of Barack Obama," said the polls "had to be a wake-up call to the White House," motivating the president to speak more personally and openly about his faith.

Iraq Builds Walls around Churches to Improve Security

After months of alleged inaction, Iraqi officials have authorized building concrete walls up to 10 feet high around churches in Baghdad and Mosul. Catholic News Agency reports that the response follows increased threats to Christian communities as Christmas approaches, and many churches have quieted their celebrations as a result. "The sadness of the people is everywhere. Uncertainty is everywhere. The question on everyone's lips is ‘What's next?'" Archbishop Bashar Warda of Erbil told the charity Aid to the Church in Need. "There is a kind of desperation. But whatever happens, the people are determined to celebrate the Christmas liturgy by any means possible." Police with scanning equipment will reportedly guard access points around churches. Warda said the measures are awkward for church goers, but he welcomed the government's efforts to protect the religious minority.

Vietnam Officials Beat Pastor, Bulldoze Bible School

The Christian Post reports that Ho Chi Minh City officials beat a pastor unconscious on Tuesday while the Bible school he leads was demolished. About 500 police, soldiers and fire officials were involved the bulldozing of the Mennonite church. Pastor Nguyen Hong Quang and five church members are now in custody at an undisclosed location for "resisting arrest" six years ago. In 2004, the human rights activist was arrested and charged with "interfering with officials carrying out their duties." At the time, Quang had publically called for police to release several Christians who were imprisoned for distributing Christian literature in Ho Chi Minh City. Release International, an international persecution watchdog, said that the attack on Tuesday "appeared carefully planned and coordinated."

Pakistan: Christian Faces Death Threats for Marrying Muslim

Local Christians and the family of a Christian youth are facing death threats and "dire consequences" after the young man converted and married a Muslim woman. ASSIST News Service reports that Christian homes were attacked and vandalized in two towns in Karachi province, Pakistan, after the news surfaced. The attackers were reportedly searching for Zohaib Rahi despite his conversion. The young man's father, Pervaiz Rahi, confirmed his son's conversion and the couple's elopement. Rahi also said police have done nothing to stop the attacks, and have instead launched a case against the family for allegedly abducting the young woman.