Religion Today Summaries - February 23, 2006

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - February 23, 2006

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


In today's edition:

Sangla Hill Christian Accused of Blasphemy Released


Yousaf Masih, a Christian detained on blasphemy charges, has been released. His alleged crime led to the eruption of violence against the Christian community in Sangla Hill in Pakistan. On February 18, the Anti-Terrorism Court granted him release on bail. Masih, released immediately, said he was happy and thanked all those who had supported him. News of his release was broken by a press release of the Peace and Justice Commission, a branch of Pakistan’s Catholic Church involved in human rights. Two days later, 65 of 85 Muslims detained for the assault on churches in Sangla Hill were also released on bail. Last month, Mohammad Saleem Kalu, the man who had charged Yousaf Masih with blasphemy, withdrew the accusation and signed a document declaring the man’s innocence. Saleem said he had accused the Christian on the basis of “mere suspicion.” The blasphemy charge against Masih, a semi-illiterate farm hand, provoked a mob of around 2,000 Muslims to attack, destroy, and set fire to three Christian churches, a convent, two Catholic schools and the homes of a Protestant pastor and a Catholic parish priest, as well as a hostel for girls and the homes of some Christians in Sangla Hill village.


Bush and Congress Urged to Protect Religious Freedom in U.S. Military


A Navy chaplain who went on an 18-day hunger strike for the right to pray in Jesus' name says new guidelines adopted by the U.S. Air Force might be expanded to cover America's other armed forces as well. However, he believes those regulations would end up restricting free speech and religious expression. Lieutenant Gordon Klingenschmitt says the Air Force's new policy does nothing to free up chaplains and other Christian military personnel to pray according to their own religious traditions. Instead, the regulations require inclusive or nondenominational prayers at public events -- which, he points out, in effect prohibits praying in Jesus' name. Klingenschmitt fears the Air Force regulations regarding prayer may eventually become policy throughout the U.S. military. "We need congressional oversight," Klingenschmitt insists. "We still need the President to step in and protect free speech for military chaplains."


Europe: Church Attendance High in Catholic Countries, Protestants Less Keen on Worship


Europeans are not the world’s most notorious churchgoers. But Catholic and Orthodox countries register relatively high attendance figures compared to predominantly Protestant nations. This is the result of a study by the research group World Views in Mastershausen, Germany, based on statistics of the European Union. According to the secular institute, Catholic Poland has the highest figures with 56.7 percent of the population going to mass on any given Sunday. Runner up is Portugal – also predominantly Catholic – with 30 percent, followed by Greece (Orthodox) with 24.5 percent. Worship figures in Protestant countries are significantly lower. Switzerland – mainly of the reformed Calvinist tradition – has the highest Protestant church attendance with 13 percent. In Germany, where Protestants and Catholics represent a third of the population each, the figure is 8.2 percent. At the bottom of the list are Scandinavian and Baltic countries: Sweden and Estonia (3.9 percent each) and Denmark (3.2).


Behind the Wave: A Perspective on Persecution


Gospel for Asia founder K.P. Yohannan writes: “In my homeland of India, we are facing more persecution now than at any other time in our history. Our leaders on the mission field tell me that it has become such a regular, daily event that they now report only the worst cases… My purpose in this public communication has been to encourage God’s people to pray about this situation. Today, a battle for economic power and control rages in India — all under the guise of religion. Hindutva, literally “Hindu-ness,” is a growing Hindu supremacist ideology that has a purely Hindu nation as its goal. To be Indian is to be Hindu, this dogma declares. Those who hold to this philosophy are part of a small but powerful group of extremists attempting to control the Dalit (“Untouchable”) and majority for their own gain. When we look at the history of the human race, we see this is not an uncommon occurrence. The Crusaders who attempted to control the Holy Land by means of violence did not represent the teachings of Christ. During World War II, a relatively small group of fascist leaders following Hitler — not the vast majority of the German population — were responsible for the murder of 6 million Jews. In countries ruled by Communist governments, it is not the masses but the minority that holds to a totalitarian ideology.  You see, without Christ, the human heart never changes — it is always hungry for power. Why persecute Christians? Because, just like in England and America in centuries past, believers in Jesus are the ones today working and praying toward the liberation of millions of “slaves” on the Indian subcontinent. These slaves — the Dalits and other lower castes — make up the vast majority of the Indian population.