Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today’s edition:
Jewish Group Condemns Anti-Christian 'War on Christmas'
Bill Fancher, AgapePress
A group of Jewish Americans says its members are fed up with the war being waged against Christmas. Yesterday, at a National Press Club gathering in Washington, the group's president, Don Feder, voiced his organization's feelings when he declared, "Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation is here today to say, 'Enough already. If you're offended by a municipal Christmas tree or Santa Claus in a holiday parade or a manger in a park, get over it.'" Feder went on to say that banning the word "Christmas" and other references to Jesus makes no sense in the United States. "This is an overwhelmingly Christian nation, and it's a matter of simple courtesy to acknowledge a holiday celebrated by 96 percent of the American people," he asserted. In a recent column for GrasstopsUSA.com, Feder confessed to being among the four percent of Americans who do not celebrate Christmas. But he also admitted that while growing up, he sang Christmas carols and made Christmas ornaments. "And, guess what," he said. "I wasn't emotionally scarred for life." While speaking at the National Press Club, the head of Jews Against Anti-Christian Defamation (JAACD) called on Jews across the U.S. to rise in defense of Christians' right to say "Merry Christmas" and to celebrate the birth of Jesus according to their faith and traditions without the threat of being prohibited or censured because of political correctness.
Turkish Authorities Harass Protestant Communities
Barbara G. Baker, Compass Direct
Turkey’s Protestant Christian minorities experienced fresh harassment this past week from both security police and the judiciary, along with an attempt by vandals to set a church on fire. In Samsun, a minivan registered with the security police appeared to be filming members of the Agape House congregation as they entered and left. In Selcuk, the local prosecutor’s office summoned two members of the Ephesus Protestant Church to answer bizarre accusations concocted by remote agitators. And in Antalya, vandals tried to set afire three windows of the St. Paul Cultural Center. The first new Christian congregation in Turkey to gain government recognition as an official “association” meets there. This week the European Union stepped up its criticism of Turkey’s reform efforts to meet its membership criteria, with EU enlargement commissioner Ollie Rehn citing religious freedom as one of six fundamental freedoms among the “significant shortcomings” that the country must address without delay. In an interview published shortly afterwards in the Financial Times, Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul acknowledged the difficulty of “spreading the spirit of reform” throughout the country’s judicial system.
Human Rights Group Urges Release of Indonesian Christian Women
Allie Martin and Jenni Parker, AgapePress
The president of an interdenominational human rights group that advocates for religious freedom says the justice system in Indonesia is a disgrace. For an example, he points to the recent arrest and conviction of three female Sunday school teachers charged with "attempting to coerce children to change their religion." Convicted under Indonesia's "Child Protection Act," the women -- Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun -- were each sentenced to three years in prison and are currently serving their sentences in the Indramayu district of West Java. But officials with Christian Freedom International (CFI), a group advocating for the release of the prisoners, are saying they were wrongly convicted and should go free. Nevertheless, according to CFI president Jim Jacobsen, the three Sunday school teachers recently lost an important appeal. A local Islamic group brought the charge against the Christian women, claiming they violated the Child Protection Act. In actuality, Zakaria, Pangesti, and Bangun did allow several Muslim children to attend their Sunday school program, but only after obtaining verbal consent from the Muslim students' guardians. The Sunday school program the three women ran was attended by around 100 Christian students in the community, and Zakaria, a medical doctor, also treated approximately 30 to 40 Muslim and Christian patients per day in her clinic in Indramayu.
Wisconsin SchoolPolicy Bans Religious Themes in Christmas Songs
The Glendale-River Hills School District has expressly prohibited any song close to the Christmas holiday from having any religious "motive or theme." While banning Christian Christmas songs, the district permits secular holiday songs as well as songs celebrating Hanukkah. In 2003, when the district's music programs excluded religious Christmas songs, Barbara Wheeler, whose nine-year-old daughter attends school in the district, complained about the absence of religious Christmas carols. School officials said they would get back with her. They never did. Last year, Mrs. Wheeler voiced complaints to the district in mid-November, but school officials said the songs were already set. This year when the school's music program contained Hanukkah and secular songs but no religious Christmas songs, Mrs. Wheeler again objected. This time the school pointed to its policy, which states: "Music programs given at times close to religious holidays should not use the religious aspect of these holidays as the underlying motive or theme. No songs should be sung which contain dogmatic religious statements." In defending this policy, Frances Smith, the district administrator, says that the Hanukkah songs are more cultural than spiritual. Mathew D. Staver, President and General Counsel of Liberty Counsel, stated: "The intent of the school district's policy is clear - "Frosty the Snowman" is in, "My Dreidel" is in, "Silent Night" is out. How much more ridiculous can it get when 96% of Americans celebrate Christmas, but the school district pretends like Christmas is merely a ghost of Christmas past."