Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 18, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 18, 2008

In today's edition:

  • Algerian Government Begins Open Oppression of Christians
  • UK Boy Scouts Under Fire for Oath Mentioning God
  • Human Rights Group Hails Limits on Interrogation Methods
  • Murder of Gaza Christian Unresolved as Threats Continue

Algerian Government Begins Open Oppression of Christians

At the end of February, 2006, a new law was adopted in Algeria incriminating numerous acts linked to the exercise of non-Muslim religious worship (i.e. Christian) with punishment including up to 5 years imprisonment and heavy fines. ASSIST News Service reports that an American living and working in France, who asked not to be named, says the Algerian government is now starting to use this law against the Algerian Evangelical Christians. He writes to ANS: "Three Algerian brothers were just found guilty and sentenced to three years of prison and fined $750. The crime: discrediting the religion and the person of the Prophet, i.e. Islam and Mohamed. This was apparently the first such decision in Algeria according to the new law. Algerian Christians are not surprised but they are alarmed." The American says the outbreak of oppression is clearly targeting the Evangelicals in Algeria in order to stop the growth of this movement. "Local authorities and police are working together to deliver legal orders to the communities that they must stop all their church activities or suffer the consequences. The reason -- it is against the law! Eight churches have so far received these official notifications. Some police agents are requiring written lists of all persons present during a worship time and a written text of the preaching with the name of the preacher. Penalties are doubled for preachers.

UK Boy Scouts Under Fire for Oath Mentioning God

Echoing a battle already fought in America, secular humanists in Britain are attacking the Boy Scouts for requiring children to swear an oath to God. CNSNews reports that in a joint campaign, the British Humanist Association and National Secular Society accused the Scout Association, which has around half a million members, of excluding atheists from its ranks. Spokesmen for the two groups criticized the organization for refusing to allow non-believing adults in leadership positions, and for having scouts swear to "do their best to do their duty to God and to the Queen." With Britain moving towards a mostly secular society, they said, the policy was harming boys who did not want to swear an oath falsely, particular those from deprived areas where there are no alternative youth groups available. In a formal submission to the Scout Association, the two organizations said the stance was contrary to the spirit of Robert Baden-Powell, who founded the organization in the early years of the 20th century. "He did not say 'A Scout is a Friend to All, except those with non-religious beliefs,'" they wrote, in reference to a clause in the Scout Law that says, "A Scout is a friend to all and a brother to every other Scout." Leaders from the two groups met with Derek Twine, chief executive of the Scouts, last month to discuss the issue, although no progress was reported.

Human Rights Group Hails Limits on Interrogation Methods

A leading human rights organization cheered Congress' passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act, especially a provision that would prevent the "CIA and other U.S. agents from using waterboarding, sexual humiliation, dogs, and other techniques that amount to torture and ill-treatment." While the Senate agreed to the final version of the act on Wednesday, President George W. Bush has indicated he would veto the bill. "In passing this bill, both houses of Congress have put the Bush administration on notice," said Jumana Musa, advocacy director for domestic human rights and international justice at Amnesty International USA.  "This definitive statement should put an end to the specious legal arguments peddled by administration lawyers that sought to turn torture into interrogation, and crimes into tactics," Musa added. "Experienced military interrogators have long stated that they needed nothing beyond what is available to them in the Army Field Manual to conduct successful interrogations," Musa said in a statement. "Now everyone carrying out interrogations for the United States will be bound by those same standards." "It is a fact that passing the bill put the Bush administration on notice, just like the passing of any bill puts an administration on notice that Congress wants it signed," Charlie Stimson, a senior legal fellow at the conservative Heritage Foundation, told Cybercast News Service.

Murder of Gaza Christian Unresolved as Threats Continue

Palestinian Christian widow Pauline Ayyad gave birth in Gaza City last week to a healthy little girl, four months after the tiny infant’s father was kidnapped and shot to death by Islamist radicals still at large. Rami Ayyad, 29, was serving as manager of the Palestinian Bible Society bookshop in Gaza when he was found murdered on October 7 last year. Ayyad’s family has yet to receive any concrete information on the investigation that Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh ordered vowing to bring the murderers to justice. “At the beginning, the Hamas authorities told us they had found the car Rami was taken in, and also the people who were in the car with him,” Pauline Ayyad told Compass Direct. “They said they hadn’t captured the driver yet, but they knew his name. And we heard that the murderer had confessed, and the case was being taken to the National Internal Security officials.” But the widow said that a week later, “We started to hear all kinds of contradictions. They claimed they hadn’t captured anyone, and that they just had suspicions to go on.” At the same time, an evacuated Bible Society staff member told Compass that Christians “feel real pressures now between the Muslims and Christians in Gaza. Many of the Muslims believe that Rami was evangelizing people, so it was OK to kill him.”