Religion Today Summaries - December 21, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - December 21, 2004

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

  • Groups Blast Retailer's Salvation Army Ban as 'Scrooge-Like Policy'

  • Sri Lankan Church Torched in Pre-Dawn Attack 

  • Couple Demonstrates God's Love by Adopting 23 Special Needs Children

  • Ministry Urges Call for Investigation into Chinese Christian's Death

Groups Blast Retailer's Salvation Army Ban as 'Scrooge-Like Policy'
Charisma News Service

Several national Christian groups are denouncing a large retailer's decision to ban Salvation Army bell-ringers from its store entrances this holiday season. Last January, Minneapolis-based Target told the Salvation Army that it would no longer allow its red kettles and bell-ringers outside Target's nearly 1,200 U.S. stores, The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. Target stores have been a key part of Salvation Army fundraising, with the group raising about $9 million last year from Target shoppers nationwide. Target spokeswoman Carolyn Brookter said the retailer felt it no longer could make the Salvation Army the sole exception to a rule banning solicitation at its stores. The National Clergy Council (NCC) recently asked its 5,000 Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox and Protestant clergy members and 30,000 lay delegates in all 50 states to persuade their congregations, organizations, family, friends and associates to suspend holiday shopping at Target stores and instead spend their money at stores where the Salvation Army is welcome. Robert Knight, a spokesman for Concerned Women of America, claims more than 500,000 members, added: "For Target to say that the Salvation Army is no longer welcome at the inn should send a message to Christians that perhaps they'd like to do their shopping elsewhere." The American Family Association (AFA), another Christian activist group, recently asked the more than 2.2 million people on its mailing list to do just that. (

Sri Lankan Church Torched in Pre-Dawn Attack
Compass Direct

Unknown assailants set fire to St. Michael's Catholic Church in Katuwana, Homogama , Sri Lanka , in the early hours of December 19. Created using gas cylinders and rubber tires, the fire damaged pews, an organ, the altar and church statues. A local priest, Father Chaminda Wanigasena, said no one was injured in the pre-dawn attack, as no priests were resident in the building. Earlier this month, President Chandrika Kumaratunga ordered police guards for all vulnerable churches, saying she would hold local police officers personally responsible if a church was attacked over the Christmas season. Several violent attacks on churches occurred last Christmas following the funeral of a senior Buddhist monk, Ven. Gangodawila Soma, a vocal supporter of the campaign to introduce anti-conversion laws in Sri Lanka.  Sensing the rising tension, President Kumaratunga appeared on national television and appealed for calm. In spite of her efforts, 20 churches were burned on the night of the funeral. After yesterday's attack, fears of another violent Christmas may well prove justified. Christians are certainly in the minority. The Christian population has suffered a disproportionate share of violence. The National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL) recorded 46 churches burned, attacked or otherwise harassed in the first quarter of 2004.

Couple Demonstrates God's Love by Adopting 23 Special Needs Children
Charisma News Service

Children with special needs often are placed in institutions, but one Christian couple in Georgia has made room for them. John and Jeanette Murphy have adopted 23 children, one by one, all with special needs, many with very serious health problems, most with Down's syndrome. And to top it all off, they completed their family with four birth children. John and Jeanette met 30 years ago while working at a home for people with special needs, and from the time they married, they knew their calling was to care for children no one else wanted. Already three of the Murphys' special-needs children have moved out and are living on their own. The Murphys have weathered trial after trial - heart surgeries, tracheotomies, amputations, legal issues and the five children they have buried. Most passed away as infants, but one son struggled with Leukemia for five years. Through it all, the Murphys rely on God for their strength. Although John and Jeanette are not understood or accepted by most of their biological family, God has blessed the family through an unusual connection with Christian entrepreneur Madeline Balletta and Bee-Alive, her nutrition company. In fact, employees at Bee-Alive send gifts to the Murphy children every Christmas and pray with them on the phone. (

Ministry Urges Call for Investigation into Chinese Christian's Death
Allie Martin, AgapePress

The family of a Chinese woman who died in police custody after being arrested for distributing Bibles is pushing for an investigation into the incident. Last June, 34-year-old Jiang Zongxiu went to her neighborhood market, handing out Bibles and Christian literature. While there, Jiang encountered Chinese police, who arrested her and her mother-in-law. Both women were taken to the police station, interrogated, and sentenced to 15 days for "suspected spreading of rumor and disturbing the social order." Jiang was separated from other prisoners and hours later officials contacted Jiang's family and told them Jiang had died of a sudden illness. Todd Nettleton with Voice of the Martyrs says information from the mother-in-law contradicts that report. Voice of the Martyrs reports it has received video testimony from the surviving family, photos of Jiang's bruised body, and a copy of the actual arrest document -- all of which had to be smuggled out of China. The VOM spokesman says authorities continue to attempt to hide their systematic persecution of Jiang and other believers.  Jiang's family is undertaking an international campaign in an effort to discover what really happened while the young woman was in custody.  Nettleton encourages believers in the U.S. to write to the Chinese embassy in Washington, DC, demanding at investigation into Jiang's death.