Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 28, 2008

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Feb. 28, 2008

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:

  • Religious Freedom Still Elusive in West Java, Indonesia
  • Catholic Tradition Fading in U.S.
  • U.S. Gov't Watchdog Urges Religious Freedom in Cuba
  • Christians Encouraged to Send Bibles to Africa

Religious Freedom Still Elusive in West Java, Indonesia

Almost eight months have passed since Dr. Rebekka Zakaria, Eti Pangesti and Ratna Bangun walked free from a prison in Indramayu, West Java, having served two years of a three-year sentence for allegedly using deceit to “Christianize” Muslim children. Zakaria told Compass Direct News that all three women have settled back into the village of Harguelis and resumed their normal lives to some degree. But the influence of Islamic radicals is all too evident, restricting freedom of worship for Christians throughout the province. Zakaria’s church has been unable to secure a church permit, as religious groups must have 90 adult members with identification cards to apply, and Zakaria’s church has only 75 including children. Many of Zakaria’s neighbors have welcomed her back with tears.

Catholic Tradition Fading in U.S.

A story in the Washington Times says that evangelical Christianity has become the largest religious tradition in the U.S., supplanting Roman Catholicism. According to the recently-released survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, evangelical Protestants outnumber Catholics by 26.3 percent (59 million) to 24 percent (54 million) of the population. The massive 45-question poll was conducted last summer with more than 35,000 American adults. "There is no question that the demographic balance has shifted in past few decades toward evangelical churches," said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum. "They are now the mainline of American Protestantism." Meanwhile, traditional mainline Protestant churches, which in 1957 constituted about 66 percent of the populace, now tally just 18 percent.

U.S. Gov't Watchdog Urges Religious Freedom in Cuba

The Christian Post reports that Michael Cromartie, Chairperson of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), believes the U.S. government should take advantage of the power change in Cuba to press the island nation to grant greater religious freedom and other human rights. "Cubans have waited too long for the Communist government to recognize their basic human rights, including religious freedom," said Cromartie in a statement. "While we have no illusions about Raul Castro's political views, the Commission sees Fidel Castro's resignation as an opportunity for Cuban officials to reform their repressive practices... Fidel Castro's nearly 50-year-long rule was marked by a stormy, and sometimes brutal, relationship with Cuba's religious communities, including arrests, deportations, and severe restrictions on religious activities... Religious life has been unjustly repressed and controlled by his government and generations of Cuban religious adherents have suffered... Today the Cuban government has the chance to fulfill its obligation to correct past wrongs and fully protect religious freedom."

Christians Encouraged to Send Bibles to Africa

According to OneNewsNow, Christian publishing house Remnant Publications is spearheading a campaign to send four-million Bibles to Africa. Dwight Hall, president of Remnant, met with church leaders in Africa two years ago and was told of the need for Bibles on the continent. Hall then launched a campaign called "Bibles for Africa," with a goal to send four-million Bibles to Africa. Since launching the campaign, Hall has been able to secure quality King James Bibles printed for $2 each, and he is encouraging Christians in America to donate Bibles they do not use. According to Hall, one Bible in Africa can impact the lives of at least 20 people.