Religion Today Summaries, December 9, 2002

Religion Today Summaries, December 9, 2002

In Today's Edition:

  • High School's Choir Regains Right to Perform in Churches
  • Persecution Common in Sri Lanka
  • Harassed, Threatened, Discredited, and Jailed in Pakistan
  • Social Ministry in India Enhances Evangelistic Outreach

High School's Choir Regains Right to Perform in Churches
Joni B. Hannigan

(Baptist Press) It took "persistence" and "prayer," but the 84-voice Seminole High School Gospel Choir was handed a victory recently when the local school board issued new guidelines allowing the choir to perform at events held in churches.  The award-winning choir was barred from performing at a community wide memorial service honoring the memories of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on America.  Liberty Counsel, in a response to the action, faxed a legal opinion outlining three federal court of appeals cases that ruled school choirs may sing religious songs, and that barring the group from singing at a church was not only unconstitutional, but also "imprudent" in light of the September 11 memorial.  In a Sept. 11 press release, the organization had said they were considering a federal lawsuit.  "There were certain people within the administration who sought to ban the Gospel Choir from singing at religious events," said Matt Staver, President of Orlando-based Liberty Counsel. "Persistence paid off in this case. Once the matter came to the board with broad support from the community, the issue was finally resolved. I am ... thrilled by this announcement as we approach the Christmas season."

Persecution Common in Sri Lanka

(Charisma News) A church in the village of Weerawilla was burned down by a Buddhist mob, according to the Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (EASL).  A group of men set fire to the Assembly of God Worship Center and the home of a believer, who lost all his belongings.  Meanwhile, Stephen Yogarajah, pastor of Bethlehem Church Chilaw, was returning recently from a prayer meeting in the village of Kodolkela with his wife and 11-year-old son when hooded men blocked the road and attacked the family with bars, poles and clubs, EASL said.  Elsewhere, a church in Padukka, a predominantly Buddhist area, was attacked by a mob led by a Buddhist monk.  About 35 believers were gathered together at The Lord Is My Strength Worship Center for Sunday morning worship when a group of 100 people stormed the church.  According to World Evangelical Alliance Religious Liberty Commission, the attacks coincide with a rise of an increasingly aggressive Buddhist nationalism in the country formerly known as Ceylon.  Last year, Prime Minister Ratnasiri Wickremanayake suggested there was a conspiracy against Buddhism, urging young men to enter the priesthood in order to protect the religion.  Buddhist leaders have been lobbying the government to ban conversions to Christianity, the Commission said.

Harassed, Threatened, Discredited, and Jailed in Pakistan

The Voice of the Martyrs continues to receive reports from Pakistan of Christians suffering harassment and persecution at the hands of Muslims.  Last week, a VOM coworker with family in Pakistan learned that her elderly father had been arrested and forced to spend two days in jail before being released on bail.  A diabetic who has suffered two hearts attacks and is in poor health, this 69-year-old brother lives with his cousin in one of two units located in a house in central Hyderabad in a predominantly Christian section of the city.  For two days, the older man was jailed until finally friends were able to raise bail for his release.  The police refused to release his 42-year-old cousin, however, claiming that they suspected him of drug smuggling.  It took over a week until authorities finally released him as well.  No charges were ever posted against the men, and the bail money was not returned.  As Christians, this sort of harassment and financial exploitation by the police is common.

Social Ministry in India Enhances Evangelistic Outreach
(Missions Insider) A ministry in India is finding that its social and educational ministries are bearing much fruit when combined with a spiritual emphasis.  This particular ministry, begun 30 years ago, cares for 95 children of leprous parents in a children's home.  Living apart from the parents prevents the children from contracting the same dread disease and also gives them an education, that otherwise would pass them by.  Most of the children come from non-Christian families.  Along with the children's home, the ministry also operates two elementary schools.  The biggest one teaches 1,800 day-scholars from mostly Sikh and Hindu homes and employs 70 teachers.  A third school is scheduled to open in March 2003.  The ministry also runs a daily dispensary with a retired public health person.  A Christian doctor is joining the team and plans to begin operating a mobile health clinic in February.  Amid this social and educational ministry the mission group has been able to plant 45 churches with a total constituency of over 4800 believers.  "This year we started church fellowships in two new places with full time workers, and our churches are growing rapidly," the director said.