Religion Today Summaries, February 18, 2003

Religion Today Summaries, February 18, 2003

Religion Today Summaries: Daily summaries of the top national and international religious news stories impacting Christians

In Today's Edition:

  • Blasphemy Appeal Awaits Decision in Pakistan
  • Christian Peacemaker Faces Trial in Indonesia
  • Militant Group in India Cleared in Staines Trial
  • Pat Robertson Faces Cancer Surgery

Blasphemy Appeal Awaits Decision in Pakistan

(Compass) Some 32 months after a Pakistani court handed down life prison sentences to two Christian brothers for alleged blasphemy, the Lahore High Court is to hear final appeal arguments on the case.  This hearing for Rasheed and Saleem Masih has been delayed repeatedly since a lower court verdict was issued against them in May 2000.  However, the Lahore High Court finally ordered lawyers of the defendants and their accuser to present their final arguments before Lahore High Court Justice Rustam Ali Malik.  “This is definitely a case for acquittal,” the Masihs’ defense lawyer Pervez Aslam Chaudhry said.  Nevertheless, the plaintiff’s lawyer has called for the brothers’ execution, demanding last May that the court “enhance” their 35-year prison sentences and give them the death penalty.  According to lawyers from the Lahore-based Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement, the long-delayed blasphemy case is fraught with blatant legal irregularities.

Christian Peacemaker Faces Trial in Indonesia

(Compass) The Rev. Rinaldi Damanik, General Secretary of the Synod of the Protestant Church of Central Sulawesi, went on trial in a Palu court last week, accused of carrying weapons while traveling between Christian villages under attack in August 2002.  An advocate of peace, Damanik is one of the Christian representatives who signed the Malino Agreement, an important peace treaty proposed to end the sporadic violence that has flared between Muslim and Christian communities since 1998.  Muslim militants have forced most of the Christians out of the city of Poso and totally destroyed villages near the lakeside town of Tentena.  The armed forces in some cases have joined Muslim extremists to cleanse the area of Christians.  Meanwhile, Ja’far Umar Thalib, the leader of the extremist group Laskar Jihad, was acquitted by the East Jakarta District Court of provoking violence and spreading hatred.  Laskar Jihad, which was disbanded after the Bali bombing in September 2002, reportedly had ties to al Qaeda and had trained some 10,000 followers in martial arts and bomb making, according to intelligence sources.

Militant Group in India Cleared in Staines Trial

(Compass) Four years after the brutal murder of Australian missionary Graham Staines and his two sons, their murder trial took a bizarre turn when a Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) officer testifying for the prosecution declared that none of the 18 defendants are members of the militant Hindu group Bajrang Dal.  Earlier, CBI reports on the case named six assailants, including prime suspect Dara Singh, as members of the Bajrang Dal. Numerous eyewitnesses also claim they heard the attackers chant Bajrang Dal slogans as they attacked the missionary and his sons.  Staines and his two young sons, Philip and Timothy, died on the night of January 22, 1999, at the hands of an angry mob that doused their jeep with gasoline and set it afire.  The Bajrang Dal is actively engaged in training “warriors of the Hindutva revolution” and openly equips volunteers with weapons and firearms.  Christian spokesmen in India believe Barang Dal benefits from its close association with national leaders of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Pat Robertson Faces Cancer Surgery

(Charisma News) Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) founder Pat Robertson is to undergo surgery for prostate cancer today.  The 72-year-old evangelist told viewers of "The 700 Club" Thursday that the cancer had been diagnosed just after Christmas, reported "The (Hampton Roads) Virginian-Pilot."   A formal CBN statement said that after extensive tests, it had been "determined that the cancer does not appear to have metastasized beyond the prostate."  The surgeon who will operate "has pioneered the relatively new technique of radical laparoscopic prostatectomy in the United States."  Doctors expect Robertson to return to a full schedule within two weeks.  CBN spokeswoman Angell Watts told the "Virginian-Pilot": "Everyone is continually praying."  Robertson said on Thursday's program that his brother, A. Willis "Tad" Robertson, who died of lung cancer last year, had also been diagnosed with prostate cancer.