Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
New Law Forces Closure of at Least Three Cuban House Churches
Christian Solidarity Worldwide has learned that at least three Protestant churches have been forcibly closed down in Cuba after harsh legislation on house churches was announced in 2005. Two of the churches were forcibly closed. The first was confiscated by local authorities in August and the other threatened with demolition at the end of last year. A third church was demolished while church members looked on at the end of the year. All were accused of being 'illegal constructions' by the authorities to justify the closures. The new legislation, Directive 43 and Resolution 46, was announced in April in the wake of Pope John Paul II's funeral, and required all house churches to register with the authorities. Church leaders expressed their concern at the time that the registration process was so complicated as to be practically impossible. It is possible that additional churches have also met with a similar fate but because of security concerns regarding communication in Cuba, this has been impossible to verify.
'Justice Sunday' Hails Religious Liberty
An AP story reports that conservatives rallied in defense of religious liberty and in favor of reforming the federal courts on the eve of Senate confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr. The evening rally, dubbed "Justice Sunday III," was held in the state where Judge Alito sits on the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Sen. Rick Santorum, Pennsylvania Republican, told the gathering that liberal judges are "destroying traditional morality, creating a new moral code and prohibiting any dissent." "The only way to restore this republic our founders envisioned is to elevate honorable jurists like Samuel Alito," Mr. Santorum said. "Unfortunately, the Democrats on the Judiciary Committee seem poised to drag these hearings into the gutter so they can continue their far left judicial activism on the Supreme Court." The Rev. Jerry Falwell and Focus on the Family founder James Dobson also attended the event.
Methodists Call for End to Killings in the Philippines
A U.S. United Methodist Church delegation on human rights in the Philippines has called upon President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to take a more aggressive role to stop the killing of clergy, laity, journalists and human rights workers who work with the poor, an Assist News Service report indicates. Noting that “extrajudicial” murders had increased in the past year throughout the country, Bishop John Hopkins, head of the delegation, told a news conference in Manila: “The killing must stop. Our people are not armed. They teach, provide medical care, counsel and educate. We implore the government and military officials to recognize the important work of those who seek to minister with the poor and marginalized, and to distinguish their work as vital and important to the country and its people.” In hearings with victims, the delegation was told such work is often called “subversive,” and individuals engaged in human rights education are falsely accused of supporting terrorism or holding membership in political groups advocating violent resistance to the Arroyo administration.
Congo Remains World's Deadliest Humanitarian Crisis, Study Says
A story in the Christian Post, citing a study published by Britain’s leading medical journal, indicates that the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has suffered from back-to-back wars and years of corruption, is home to the world’s deadliest humanitarian crisis. The study shows that nearly four million people died between 1998-2004, with 38,000 people dying each month – a rate 40 percent higher than the average for sub-Saharan Africa. The majority of deaths result from preventable diseases rather than directly from war violence. “Less than two percent of the deaths were directly due to violence,” pointed out IRC’s health director Rick Brennan. “However, if the effects of violence – such as the insecurity that limits access to health care facilities – were removed, mortality rates would fall to almost normal levels. It is a sad indictment of us all that seven years into this crisis ignorance about its scale and impact is almost universal.” "Rich donor nations are miserably failing the people of (Congo), even though every few months the mortality equivalent of two Southeast Asian tsunamis plows through its territory," the study said. Christian organizations involved in helping the DRC include: Christian Aid, World Vision, World Concern, World Relief, and Salvation Army.