Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 25, 2011

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk Editorial Staff

Religion Today Summaries - Jan. 25, 2011

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

In today's edition:

  • Churches Reach Out to Victims of Brazil Flooding
  • Iran's Crackdown on Believers Spreads to More Cities
  • Sudanese Secession Vote Could Open Door for Gospel
  • Court Says Religious Knowledge Test Improper in Asylum Case

Churches Reach Out to Victims of Brazil Flooding

At least 800 people have been killed in floods and landslides in south-eastern Brazil, Christian Today reports, and that number is likely to rise. More than 400 are still missing in the mountainous area around Rio de Janeiro as of this weekend and an estimated 20,000 people are now homeless. Churches are working to respond to the disaster, which has isolated largely poor communities. Congregations of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil (IELCB) have established committees to assess needs and plan their relief response alongside other aid organizations and the government. IELCB synodical pastor Guilherme Lieven said, "This way we want to assist the most urgent requests of those unassisted, and avoid the waste of resources and replication of help... At the same time, we also need to think both on mid and long term levels, when the media's attention on this region will be gone."

Iran's Crackdown on Believers Spreads to More Cities

Following the wave of arrests against new Christians in the capital city of Tehran, reports now indicate similar actions against recent Christians in other cities of Iran. ASSIST News Service reports that security police in Isfahan, 150 miles south of Tehran, arrested four new Christians at the end of 2010. Basir Amini, 31; Hooman Tavakoli, 25; Rafee Nadi-Pour, 20; and Yasaman Yar-Ahmadi, 35, were all arrested in their homes. Government agents confiscated computers, CDs, Bibles, and other Christian books. The four were allegedly transferred to Tehran and imprisoned in a section of Evin Prison reserved for political prisoners. The section is under direct control of the Revolutionary Guards.

Sudanese Secession Vote Could Open Door for Gospel

Nearly 99 percent of the southern Sudanese who voted in the referendum on independence have chosen to split from the Arab-dominated north, according to preliminary results. Baptist Press reports that official results are expected in February. If the vote is confirmed, the new country of Southern Sudan will formally declare independence July 9. Missionaries Shannon and Carrie Lewis, who are church planters and community developers among the rural Toposa people, are hopeful the vote will lead to new religious freedom. "Pray for the whole country of Sudan," Shannon said. "That God will give them discernment and that there will come forth leaders that can move the country forward in the next steps after the referendum."

Court Says Religious Knowledge Test Improper in Asylum Case

Religion News Service reports that a Chinese Christian should be given another chance at asylum after an immigration judge thought the man couldn't answer "basic questions" about Christianity, a federal appeals court has ruled. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Jan. 19 that Lei Li was improperly denied asylum after the judge was unsatisfied by his answers on whether Thanksgiving is a Christian holiday and the difference between the Old and New Testaments. Lei became a Christian in 1999 and was subsequently beaten, interrogated by Chinese authorities, and lost his job after hosting church services in his house. He arrived in the U.S. on a tourist visa in 2001. The appeals court said Lei's answer about the Bible is "scant evidence" for his lack of Christian faith, and his answer about Thanksgiving is "no evidence at all."     According to the ruling, Lei professed his "belief that Jesus came to save people from sin, that he willingly died on the cross, that he rose from the dead on the third day, that 40 days later he ascended into heaven, and that, in this way, he 'save(s) our lives.'"