Religion Today Summaries - February 18, 2005

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 18, 2005

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

  • Thousands of Kids Come to Christ at Preacher's School Bible Clubs

  • Vietnam: After November Ordinance, Persecution Continues for Tribal Christians

  • Egyptian Christian Fights 'Contrived' Criminal Charges

  • China: Great Suffering Continues

Thousands of Kids Come to Christ at Preacher's School Bible Clubs
Charisma News Service

An Oklahoma evangelist is training young missionaries in one of the nation's most unlikely places: public schools. Bob Heath, founder and director of Kids for Christ (KFC) USA said his organization has seen more than 6,000 children accept Christ since it began launching Bible clubs in Tulsa public elementary and middle schools in January 2001. In turn, he said, the children have used the tools they learned during the weekly meetings to lead 2,500 of their friends and family members to salvation. Based in Broken Arrow, in suburban Tulsa, KFC began informally about seven years ago when a parents group invited Heath to be the guest speaker at a Bible club at a Tulsa elementary school. "I taught them that Jesus was like chocolate; the more you get the more it takes to satisfy you," Heath said. According to the Family Research Council, the 1984 Equal Access Act (EAA) requires schools to grant religious student groups the same rights and privileges as nonreligious student groups. Heath said he spoke with a representative of the American Center for Law and Justice in the developmental stages of KFC to make sure he was on solid legal ground. With 25 clubs in the Tulsa area, KFC receives requests from groups nationwide who are interested in beginning Bible clubs in their local schools. (

Vietnam: After November Ordinance, Persecution Continues for Tribal Christians
Christian Aid Mission

Though the communist government of Vietnam passed a new Ordinance on Religion in November purporting to grant religious freedom to all, the oppressive circumstances of believers in remote tribal areas have remained the same and, in some instances, grown worse.  A native ministry leader reports that of the 179 believers known to be in prison for their faith, several have been released, yet, due to injuries they received while in captivity, two died shortly after returning home. Of those still in prison, the leader reports, many have been rendered blind or paralyzed from repeated beatings. Incidents like these take place despite recent national government action on religion. The new ordinance became effective November 15 and states, "Citizens have the right to freedom of religious belief and of having a religion, and freedom of non-belief and not having a religion." Yet the ordinance goes on to surround that freedom with so many conditions and requirements that some have questioned whether it really grants any true liberty. Tribal Christians in certain areas feel the effects of such policies in their daily lives. Yet the word of the Lord continues to advance in Vietnam. Over 700 Christians graduated recently from one ministry's leadership program and have been sent out as missionaries to disciple their countrymen.

Egyptian Christian Fights 'Contrived' Criminal Charges
Compass Direct

The criminal trial of Egyptian Christian Shafik Saleh Shafik has been ordered postponed until February 20 by the presiding judge in order to summon key witnesses. The director of a home for troubled Coptic girls, Shafik faces criminal charges of holding a 16-year-old girl against her will, beating her and attempting to rape her. He dismisses the charges as "contrived" attempts to halt his recovery ministry among young Coptic girls who are being enticed to leave their families and convert to Islam. Egypt's state security police appear to be cooperating with an extremist Muslim group holding the alleged victim in an unknown location. Shafik, 57, holds both Egyptian and American citizenship. After retiring from his U.S. business four years ago, he and his wife returned to Egypt to minister among poor and disadvantaged youth in the Coptic Christian community.

China: Great Suffering Continues
Elizabeth Kendal, Assist News Service

Chinese authorities have a suspicion and fear of foreigners and of Christianity that is rooted in more than Communism. During the 19th Century, Western Protestant Christian missionaries and gospel tracts frequently arrived in China on the same ships as opium. Thus Protestant missionaries unfortunately became identified with Western opium traders, particularly those of the British East India Company, which acted with the silent complicity of the British government. China's objections to the opium trade led to the Opium War of 1839-42. British troops defeated the Chinese imperial forces and forced the Nanking Treaty on China. This gave British trade five ports not subject to Chinese law and thus the import of opium increased markedly. This was a huge humiliation which severely undermined the Qing Dynasty. Then the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64), a militant insurgency by a pseudo-Christian cult, caused some 20-30 million deaths, with a further 30 million dying from the resulting famine. So it is not totally surprising that Chinese authorities and the masses developed a strong nationalistic, anti-foreign and anti-Christian mindset. During the 19th and 20th Centuries Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries paid a high price. Today Chinese Christians are still paying the price. Despite its denials, China has multitudes of Christian prisoners. Torture is routine in prison interrogations. Beatings, inhumane treatment and slave labor are standard in 're-education through labour' camps.