Religion Today Summaries - February 10, 2012

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 10, 2012

Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.

In today's edition:

  • Deportation Looms for 95 Indonesian Christian Refugees in New Hampshire
  • NY Senate Supports Churches' Use of Schools
  • 'Very Grim' Future Faces Middle East Christians
  • Islamic Extremists Behead Another Convert in Somalia


Deportation Looms for 95 Indonesian Christian Refugees in New Hampshire

Time is running out for 95 Christian Indonesian refugees who will be deported to their home country after living and working in the Dover, New Hampshire area for almost 15 years, the New Hampshire Union Leader reports. The Indonesians originally fled to the U.S. with tourist visas, unaware of a one-year deadline to file for asylum status. After federal immigration officials rejected their most recent efforts to stay their orders of removal, the first wave of 37 men and women must leave between Feb. 10 and Feb. 29, while the remaining 58 are set to leave in November. For these Christian refugees, though, the deportation means much more than just leaving behind homes, jobs and family -- they face persecution by Muslim extremists upon their return to Muslim-majority Indonesia. "They are scared to go home because the situation in Indonesia is still not safe," said the Rev. Sandra Pontoh, pastor of a local Indonesian church. "Here they feel they can go to church every Sunday without worry about a bomb or maybe that somebody will hurt them. That is the reason they want to be here. They just want to practice their beliefs." Advocates for the refugees have met with lawmakers in an attempt to delay the deportations, while some Christian churches are looking into whether it would be possible to offer sanctuary to them.

NY Senate Supports Churches' Use of Schools

The New York Senate passed a bill this week to reverse the New York City school district's ban on church services in rented public school space, CBN News reports. The bill must go on to pass the New York House and be signed by the governor to stop the city from evicting churches from schools in just two days -- something that may be an unlikely feat at this point. Opponents to the bill said it could open up the doors for "anybody" to hold meetings in schools, but supporters said churches posed no threat to the community. "This is about equal access," said Sen. Martin J. Golden (R-Brooklyn), the bill's sponsor. "The fact of the matter is these are real lives that these institutions are helping and saving," said Sen. Malcolm A. Smith (D-Queens). This Sunday, Feb. 12, is the last day some 60 congregations can worship in the city's public schools.

'Very Grim' Future Faces Middle East Christians

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and national security expert Judith Miller says Christians and other minorities face a "very grim" future as the radical Muslim Brotherhood inevitably comes to power in Egypt and other Arab countries. When asked why major media outlets were not covering the situation more, she said: "There is a reluctance to acknowledge what is happening, which is that these revolutionary movements that were spearheaded largely by secular, liberal young people have been taken over by Islamist forces, and there is an unwillingness to come to grips with the direction in which these revolutionary movements are moving. The United States now faces a region that is going to be increasingly Islamic, increasingly intolerant to minorities, particularly Christians, and to alternative ... points of view." Miller warned that Egypt could soon experience an economic meltdown, which would lead to "a turning by the Muslims on [Christians] in the hunt for scapegoats. And that is what the Christian community fears the most."

Islamic Extremists Behead Another Convert in Somalia

Islamic extremists from the rebel al Shabaab militia in Somalia beheaded a young Christian man on the outskirts of Mogadishu last month, Compass Direct News reports. Zakaria Hussein Omar, 26, who converted to Christianity seven years ago while living with relatives in Ethiopia, worked for a Christian humanitarian organization that al Shabaab banned last year. "He mentioned to me that his life was in danger when the [non-governmental organization] he worked for was banned by the al Shabaab," one of Omar's friends said. Omar's body was left lying nine miles from Mogadishu for about 20 hours before nomads found it and carried it into the city. He is survived by his wife, his parents, a brother and four sisters. Last September, al Shabaab beheaded another young Christian near the same area; the militant group, estimated to range between 3,000 and 7,000 members, seeks to impose sharia (Islamic law) in the country while the transitional government fights to retain control.

Publication date: February 10, 2012