Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
India Militants Threaten To "Eradicate" Christianity in Village
Tensions remained high Tuesday, December 20, in a village of India's western state of Maharashtra where an angry mob attacked Christian converts in a campaign to "eradicate Christianity," investigators said. The Washington, D.C.-based human rights group, International Christian Concern (ICC) said that the December 10 attack in the village of Bivsi Dabhadi was the second in as many months. "The village head" wants "to eradicate Christianity from the village," ICC said. In the latest violence, four villagers, including the village head, reportedly tried to attack a convert, identified as Dhakya Laksya Bhavar. "The attackers came with sticks, stones and sickles to beat the convert, but he managed to escape." Although the convert "promptly lodged a police complaint," the police "had not arrested any of the attackers" yet, ICC stressed.On November 1, "a group of about 20 villagers led by the village head assaulted two converts, Rajalya and Soma Bhavar. The attackers beat the two Christians with sticks and told them they were not allowed to live in the village," ICC recalled. "Both received internal injuries [and] the mob also vandalized the houses of six other Christians," the group added. Police have allegedly refused to intervene.
Jury's Bible Use Nixes Death Penalty
Tribune News Services
A man who kidnapped, raped and murdered a woman in 1994, but whose death sentence was overturned because jurors consulted a Bible, was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole. Robert Harlan initially was sentenced to death in 1995 for murdering Rhonda Maloney, 25. But Harlan avoided execution after the Colorado Supreme Court upheld a ruling that jurors in the case improperly consulted the Bible during deliberation. "It could be said you may have avoided the death penalty by a technicality," Adams County District Court Judge Scott Crabtree told Harlan. But he said his hands were tied and the sentence he imposed was "mandated" by the judicial system. "I have no discretion here," Crabtree said.
Persecution Solidifies Faith of South Sudanese Christians
For more than 20 years, the Christians of South Sudan suffered relentless attacks by the Islamic government of the north. Christians were killed by the thousands, and nearly every church building was destroyed. Now, with a peace agreement in effect, Christians are slowly beginning to rebuild, and begin the healing process after a long, hard war. It is Sunday morning, and Christians are coming from miles around to worship together under a big tree in the South Sudanese village of Nyakama. They bring chairs to settle in for a service that can run for many hours. They worship under the trees because, in 1990, the Arab Muslims from the north swept in and destroyed their church building, and the Christians ran for their lives into the hills. Many Christians were killed in the 21-year civil war, including the son of a woman named Nadia, who is not bitter: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away," she says wearily. Nearly every building in South Sudan was destroyed during the war. Father Marco Mangu Udilio has the task of rebuilding the church in the village of Mayen Abun. "They came and looted the church, whatever is good, they have taken it,” Udilio lamented. Udilio said the challenges are great in his parish due to very little education and a landscape that grudgingly yields crops. He left the splendor of a parish in Italy to help rebuild the church, and hopes to one day repair their cathedral.
Barna Reviews Top Religious Trends of 2005
The Barna Group
Ignoring reporters’ questions about church growth figures by stating, “church attendance is grossly overrated as a measure of anything that is spiritually significant,” researcher George Barna instead offered four factors that he described as “indicative of the reshaping of the church in the U.S.” The first of those patterns had to do with the priorities embraced by church leaders, in which most local churches essentially ignore three critical spiritual dimensions: ministry to children, ministry to families, and prayer. A second trend defined by Barna is that congregations are rapidly incorporating new technologies into their activities. Among the fastest-growing adoptions are big-screen projection systems, websites, and e-mail blasts to congregants. The slow demise of the African-American church community was a third outcome highlighted by Barna, identifying the decline within the black community of factors such as church attendance, Bible knowledge, faith prioritization, and reliance upon the faith community for support and relationships. Barna’s fourth trend, which he labeled as somewhat ‘’invisible yet significant’’ is the “changing of the guard among the leaders of the leaders.” Where the media, general public, and pastors had previously perceived Billy Graham, Adrian Rogers, Jerry Falwell, John MacArthur, Pat Robertson, Robert Schuller, and Charles Stanley to be the leading spokespersons for Christianity in the U.S., Barna showed that the leading representatives of the Christian faith now include Rick Warren and T.D. Jakes.