Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Rise in Protestantism Has Drawn Backlash from Mexican Catholics
Even though freedom of religion is guaranteed by Mexico's 1917 constitution, the steady growth of evangelical congregations has produced a backlash among the Catholic majority. Some Catholic lay leaders are using their control of local communal assemblies to enforce religious traditions. In San Nicolas, angry Catholics used a backhoe to cut off Nicolasa Vargas' water after she and her husband were absent from the fiesta honoring the village's patron saint. In Chiapas, evangelical leaders say Maya Catholics have forced thousands of families from their homes. Guillermo Cano wouldn't help pay for music at the San Nicolas fiesta, nor partake of the food or drink, saying all that was against his religion. When he and other Pentecostal Christians bought land for a new temple, local Catholic leaders blocked the road to the property with a bulldozer. "We told the evangelicals that they won't be holding any more meetings here" said Genaro Gutierrez, one of a group of community-appointed delegates. "They take advantage to recruit more followers." For Gutierrez, every evangelical in San Nicolas is a social nuisance: "We are defending our identity, what we are. We are thinking about the future. What will become of San Nicolas? If you let in anyone, and even worse this type of sect, this [community] will be divided." "They want to be able to brag that their community is 100% Catholic," said Cano. "They want to force us to respect something we don't want to." For example, the Bible, he says, told him not to "venerate statues." Catholicism has defined life for centuries in countless villages across Mexico. Nine in 10 Mexicans are Catholic, but the number of non-Catholics has increased in every census since 1970.
Clergyman Tried for Heresy by Diocese
A rare heresy trial was held Tuesday for a former Roman Catholic priest who joined an Ecumenical denomination in 1999. The Rev. Ned Reidy did not attend the one-day closed trial, which was conducted by three priests at the Diocese of San Bernardino. Reidy, 69, called the trial "medieval" and contends it has no authority because he stopped being a Roman Catholic. Rev. Howard Lincoln, spokesman for the diocese, said Reidy was automatically excommunicated when he went to another denomination, but under church law he remains a Catholic priest until he is formally excommunicated and defrocked. "I just think the discourtesy level is appalling," Reidy said of the trial. "I'm not a Roman Catholic priest. I used to be." Reidy was ordained in 1962 and was pastor of a parish in Palm Desert, near Palm Springs, before he resigned to join the Ecumenical Catholic Communion. He now is pastor of the 100-member Community of the Risen Christ church in Bermuda Dunes, a few miles from his old church. His denomination considers itself Catholic in the sense of celebrating its sacraments. But it does not believe in the infallibility of the pope and permits married and female clergy. It also holds more liberal views than the Vatican on divorce, birth control and homosexuality.
Pakistani Christians Announce Day of Protest, Prayer & Fasting
ASSIST News Service
A number of Pakistani Christians will observe an upcoming day of “Protest, Prayers and Fasting.” The event will take place on Dec. 20, and signify the completion of 40 days of mourning for the recent tragedies in Sangala Hill, when announcements were made in mosques urging Muslims to attack Christians. According to a news release from the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance (APMA), “This day will be observed to condemn the lawlessness and intolerance in the name of religion, and (the) callous attitude of authorities for not arresting the real culprits.” APMA Chairman Shahbaz Bhatti explained that the incidents revolved around a Christian man, Yousaf Masih, being falsely alleged for desecration of the Koran. That was followed by announcements in a number of mosques on Sangala Hill urging Muslims to attack Christians. A mob of approximately 5,000 attacked Christians with weapons, gasoline, highly flammable chemicals, sticks and batons. Bhatti said at the insistence of a variety of Sangala Hill’s community leaders, an official visited the site of the incident six days after it occurred. According to Bhatti speaking in the news release, this official promised to launch an immediate official enquiry into what happened. He said that Christians living at Sangala Hill are worried because of the ongoing atmosphere of fear and insecurity. “Bhatti added that “Discriminatory laws such as blasphemy laws, a major tool for creating disharmony should be repealed, and reconciliation efforts between people of different faith should be made to eliminate violence in the name of religion.”
Report: 'Freedom of Religion Does Not Exist' In Saudi Arabia
The Christian Post
Freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia, a country where the official state religion is Islam, according to the 2005 International Religious Freedom Report. The report, released by the U.S. Department of State last week, indicates that there was generally no change in the status of religious freedom during the reporting year, but there was an increase in accounts of harassment by Mutawa'een (religious police). The public practice of non-Muslim religions, conversion of Muslims to another religion, and proselytizing by non-Muslims are strictly prohibited. Saudi Arabia, one of the eight designated “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) this year, does not recognize or protect religious freedom under law but instead enforces a state-sanctioned version of Sunni Islam. All non-Sunni Islam, including Muslims who do not follow the officially sanctioned interpretation of Islam, can face severe consequences. Although the government made a public statement that non-Muslims are free to practice their religions privately, the government does not always respect this right, the State Department said.