Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 19, 2007

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 19, 2007

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

  • Iraqi Christians Lose All Hope with Violence, Anarchy
  • Pastor Shot Dead in Sri Lanka
  • Southern Sudan a "Model" for Religious Freedom, Advocate Says
  • Jim Caviezel Returns as Jesus in Audio Bible

Iraqi Christians Lose All Hope with Violence, Anarchy

The Christian Post reports that even though difficulty and persecution are nothing new to the minority Christians living in Iraq, local Christians are now saying that the situation in their country has destroyed all optimism for a better future. “Almost no one sees a bright future for Iraq,” said Stefan De Groot, co-worker of the international organization Open Doors. De Groot, who visits Iraq several times a year, says that every time he visits, a local believer tells him that the situation is worse than the last time he visited. De Groot said that competing gangs and violent groups attack Christians for the main purpose of money to finance their fights. The United Nations reports that although Assyrians comprise only five percent of Iraq’s population, they make up nearly 40 percent of the refugees fleeing Iraq.

Pastor Shot Dead in Sri Lanka

ASSIST News Service reports that a pastor was shot dead by Sri Lankan security forces on January 13 in Jaffna, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW) quoting a report from the National Christian Evangelical Alliance of Sri Lanka (NCEASL). CSW says Rev. Nallathamby Gnanaseelan, aged 38, was the Pastor of the Tamil Mission Church in Jaffna. He was a member of the NCEASL, and according to their report, he was not engaged in any political activity. The CSW report says: "Rev. Gnanaseelan was killed on Chapel Street after he had taken his wife and daughter to hospital. According to reports, he was shot in the stomach and then in the head. His Bible, bag, identity card and motorcycle were taken away and he was left in the road. Sri Lankan security forces initially claimed he had been carrying explosives, and then said he was shot because he failed to stop when challenged." CSW states that in recent months there has been a dramatic upsurge in violence in Sri Lanka, particularly in Jaffna, as the conflict between the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and the Government has escalated.

Southern Sudan a "Model" for Religious Freedom, Advocate Says

A religious freedom advocate is hailing the opening of the new Government of South Sudan Mission to the United States in Washington, AgapePress reports. The office was opened Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Presidential Envoy to Sudan Andrew Natsios, and other U.S. dignitaries. Faith McDonnell with the Institute on Religion and Democracy was one of the special guests invited by senior-level ministers in the South Sudanese government to speak at the event. "What the Southern Sudanese and all the people of Sudan who want democracy and religious freedom are doing is a great model to the rest of the world," says McDonnell.  She encourages Americans, in fact, to observe what is happening in that African nation, and to learn from it. "Look at Southern Sudan," she says. "That's the place to look -- look at people who care about religious freedom." McDonnell says the people of South Sudan have been willing to die for their faith while respecting the faith of others. The Sudan has been ravaged by years of civil war and brutal genocide carried out by the Islamic regime in Khartoum.

Jim Caviezel Returns as Jesus in Audio Bible

Thomas Nelson, Inc. has announced that they will be releasing a 25-hour, 20-CD, diverse star-studded audio Bible production of The New Testament entitled The Word of Promise: New Testament Audio Bible in association with Falcon Picture Group (FPG). This NKJV New Testament, presented in a compelling, dramatic audio theater format is scheduled to release in October 2007. Carl Amari, CEO of Falcon Picture Group, approached actor Jim Caviezel (“The Passion of the Christ") to play the lead role of Jesus. Caviezel relished the chance to explore the character in a new medium and is also co-producing the project. Joining Caviezel in lending their voice talents are: Michael York as the Narrator; Richard Dreyfuss as Moses; Marisa Tomei as Mary Magdalene; Stacy Keach as Paul; Lou Gossett, Jr. as John; and Terence Stamp as the Voice of God. Michael W. Smith is also lending his musical talents to the project. The planned follow-up to the New Testament is the Old Testament, a 60-hour, 50-CD audio production with Dreyfuss, York and Stamp already on-board to reprise their respective roles.