Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
High Court Rejects Appeal for Schoolteachers in Indonesia
Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, one of three women imprisoned for breaching Indonesia’s Child Protection Law, had secretly prayed to be home for Christmas. Zakaria conveyed this wish in October, when her lawyer was preparing an appeal to the provincial High Court seeking to overturn their conviction. The court, however, rejected the appeal in mid November. Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun were sentenced to three years in prison on September 1, after allowing Muslim children to attend a Christian education program. The children’s parents had given verbal permission, but when Muslim radicals took the case to court in June, the parents were afraid to testify on behalf of the defendants.
Kwanzaa not Rooted in Faith, Says Black SBC Pastor & Professor
Having taken a close look at Kwanzaa, a black Southern Baptist pastor and Southern Baptist seminary professor are opting instead to celebrate their Christian faith. Kwanzaa’s celebration of African American culture should not take precedence over the traditional observance of Christmas, the two men said. “I think African American Christians must recognize that Kwanzaa is not a simple appreciation or reaffirmation of one’s ancestry,” said Eric Redmon, pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Temple Hills, MD. The concept of self-worth based on one’s ancestry is inherent in the system of Kwanzaa, and perhaps can reflect “the majesty of the image of God in all people,” Redmon said. But he noted that Kwanzaa overlooks the depravity that can arise within any human culture. Kwanzaa was founded in 1966 by a black activist, Ron Karenga, as a Dec. 26-Jan. 1 celebration of African-American heritage. Timed to serve as an alternative to the commercialism of Christmas, Kwanzaa was based on various elements of the first harvest celebrations widely observed in Africa. Kwanzaa is celebrated by 1.6 percent of consumers, according to a 2004 survey conducted by the National Retail Foundation. The name Kwanzaa is derived from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.” The seven letters in the word Kwanzaa correspond to seven principles on which the observance is based: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
Israel Facing Renewed Threats and Hostility
Family News in Focus
In this Christmas season, it's worth remembering the situation in which Israel lives day-by-day. The president of Iran has recently suggested that Israel move to North America, and Lebanese college students are calling for Israel to be wiped off the map. Salem Radio Network Analyst Bob Maginnis says their fury is more than posturing. “They actually believe these things. It’s not as if the reports that are coming out are fabricated. No, they say these things in public. They believe them strongly.” Gary Bauer, of American Values, believes hatred for Israel has major implications for the United States. “The president of Iran, when he called for Israel to be wiped off the map, in the same speech said, ‘Imagine a day when there will be no United States. That day is coming soon.’ So this is very dangerous and it does mean, I think increasingly, that we’re in a clash of civilizations.” Talk show host Janet Parshall points out Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. “I have religious liberty when I go to Israel, I don’t have religious liberty when I go to Iran. So we need to shore up and protect Israel because she is defending the rights that we believe in so strongly in America and there in the Middle East.” Parshall urges Christians to pray for the peace of Jerusalem, now, more than ever.
6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals: 'The First Amendment Does Not Demand a Wall of Separation between Church and State'
Christian Wire Service
In an astounding return to judicial interpretation of the actual text of the United States Constitution, a unanimous panel of the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals Tuesday issued an historic decision declaring that "the First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state." In upholding a Kentucky county's right to display the Ten Commandments, the panel called the American Civil Liberties Union's repeated claims to the contrary extra-constitutional" and "tiresome." Gary Glenn, president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said, "We are particularly excited that such an historic, factual, and truth-based decision is now a controlling precedent for the federal Court of Appeals that rules on all Michigan cases.". 6th Circuit Judge Richard Suhrheinrich wrote in the unanimous decision: "The ACLU makes repeated reference to the 'separation of church and state.' This extra-constitutional construct has grown tiresome. The First Amendment does not demand a wall of separation between church and state. Our nation's history is replete with governmental acknowledgment and in some cases, accommodation of religion." The words "separation of church and state" do not appear in the U.S. Constitution, though according to polls, a majority of Americans have been misled to believe that they do.