Religion Today Summaries, February 16, 2004

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, February 16, 2004

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

  • Ministry Offers Guidance to Indian Christians
  • Baptist Pastor Called Traitor for Spreading Christianity
  • Attorney: School That Censored Child's Christmas Message Discarded Constitution
  • Court Releases Jailed Attackers

Ministry Offers Guidance to Indian Christians
Agape Press

A California-based ministry is helping Christian pastors, leaders, and other believers in India face and endure persecution. Religious persecution has steadily increased over the last several years in India, and in fact, more persecution incidents were recorded in that nation between 1998 and 2003 than in the 100 years prior to that period. For this reason, Open Doors International is conducting "Standing Strong Through the Storm" seminars throughout India. Open Doors spokesman Jerry Dykstra says the four-day seminars have been a valuable tool, helping to equip and encourage pastors and Christians in India to persevere in the face of persecution. "Four-thousand cases are pending in Indian courts involving attacks on Christians right now," Dykstra says, "and last year we believe there were about 500 or 600 attacks on Christians. Of course that's including the anti-conversion laws that are on the table." The ministry spokesman says Christians in India have to deal with national anti-conversion statutes as well as the regional anti-conversion laws enacted by some five Indian states. Along with the ten "Standing Strong" seminars planned for this year, Open Doors is organizing prayer networks throughout the nation. Dykstra says many Indian pastors and other Christians in the largely Hindu-dominated country travel for days to get to the seminars offered by Open Doors, and the Christian believers are encouraged to receive this endurance training and to know that others are praying for them.

Baptist Pastor Called Traitor for Spreading Christianity
Voice of the Martyrs

A deputy head of police has threatened a Baptist Pastor, trying "to drive him out of the town, ban him from visiting and insulted him as a 'traitor' for having adopted Christianity," the leader of the Baptist church in Azerbaijan said. This is one of many problems Baptists have, including other threats from local police officers and congregations being unable to get state registration. An Azeri-language Baptist church has been closed down and its pastor banned from preaching and subjected to a harsh media campaign. Also, 50,000 Azeri-language New Testaments have been denied entry to Azerbaijan. Baptists have reported their opposition to attempts to crush the Muslim community of Baku's Juma mosque led by imprisoned imam Ilgar Ibrahimoglu Allahverdiev. The Baptists have been prominent in his defence, pointing out that his arrest "testifies to the intentions of the authorities to restrict even further the religious freedom not only of Baptists but of all believers in Azerbaijan."

Attorney: School That Censored Child's Christmas Message Discarded Constitution
Jim Brown, Agape Press

The mother of a six-year-old Oregon boy is suing the Gresham-Barlow School District, claiming the kindergartner was not allowed to pass out his Christmas cards because they mentioned Jesus. The American Center for Law & Justice is representing Julie Cortez and her son Justin. Their federal lawsuit charges that when Justin tried to hand out cards at a school Christmas party, they were taken from him. According to the center's senior counsel Stuart Roth, the Christmas cards suggested that candy canes are shaped like a "J" to symbolize Jesus, with the red stripes symbolizing Christ's blood. He says the ACLJ filed the lawsuit on behalf of Justin and his mother because the school's action violated the kindergartener's constitutional rights. "Our position is that this type of censorship, solely because of the religious perspective and viewpoint of Justin Cortez's message, violated the United States Constitution -- specifically the free speech clause," Roth says. The attorney contends that Justin's freedom of religious expression and his right to equal protection under the law were also violated. Roth says he assumes the school district feels that for some reason it has to purge Jesus from Christmas. But the attorney says Justin would not have suffered this censorship had the district simply followed its own policy, which warns school officials not to exclude students because of their free religious expression during holiday celebrations or class time.

Court Releases Jailed Attackers
Compass Direct

A judge of the Orhangazi Criminal Court in northwestern Turkey released two young nationalists jailed on assault-and-battery charges against a convert to Christianity. The decision was based on a hospital report on the injured Christian, together with his failure to appear at yesterday’s hearing. According to a hospital release order, Yakup Cindilli, 32, had emerged from his two-month coma and his life was no longer in danger. The judge accepted the state prosecutor’s recommendation to release Ibrahim Sekman and Huseyin Bektas for the duration of the trial against them. Cindilli’s sister told the court that her brother had just begun to walk “like a baby” again and that his speech did not usually make sense. “If you would ask him questions, he would not be able to answer them,” she told the judge. Cindilli was attacked and beaten on October 19 by right-wing nationalists linked with the Nationalist Movement Party for distributing New Testaments and “doing missionary work.” The next day he slipped into a coma, caused by a blood clot on his brain.