Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Eritrea Rounds Up Leaders from Five Churches
At least 40 pastors, elders and leading laymen from five of Eritrea’s banned Protestant churches have been arrested from their homes or offices in the past two weeks in the capital of Asmara, according to a Compass Direct release. Starting early on the morning of December 22, security police began tracking down leaders of the Church of the Living God, along with clergymen and elders in the Full Gospel, Rema, Hallelujah and Philadelphia churches. One Church of the Living God pastor escaped shortly after his arrest, and police have arrested a member of his church board and one of his parishioners. Police also raided a music shop run by members of the Philadelphia Church, jailed all 15 people present, and shut down the store. The music shop was the main source of Christian materials, music tapes and books for Protestant evangelicals in Asmara.
Emergent Jewish & Christian Leaders in Historic Meeting
Synagogue 3000 (S3K) and Emergent will host a groundbreaking meeting to connect pioneering Jewish and Christian leaders from dynamic and innovative congregations on January 16-17, 2006 in Simi Valley, CA, according to a Religion News Service release. In their first-ever formal gathering, emerging leaders from across America will share experiences and exchange ideas about reinventing the meaning and practice of community in their respective faith traditions, especially for unaffiliated Christians and Jews who are not attracted to conventional congregations. A debate with leading clergy in mainstream synagogues will explore the relationship between the congregational establishment and emerging groups. Internationally respected experts on religion and generational change will lead a provocative panel discussion. Prominent Emergent Christian theologian Brian McLaren has met with S3K three times to discuss recent trends among younger Christians and Jews. "We have so much common ground on so many levels," he noted. "We face similar problems in the present, we have common hopes for the future, and we draw from shared resources in our heritage. I'm thrilled with the possibility of developing friendship and collaboration in ways that help God's dreams come true for our synagogues, churches, and world."
'Walking the Bible' Takes Viewers on Trek
A Chicago Tribune article reports that when former weatherman Roger Triemstra and South Holland, IL, Mayor Don De Graff began enlisting investors for a new TV documentary, they approached Christian comrades whom they knew had compassion and a desire to bring the Bible to life. Soon, 40 friends had pledged $3 million toward the creation of three shows based on the best-selling book Walking the Bible. The three-hour miniseries will take viewers on a 10,000-mile trek across three continents, five countries and four war zones to biblical settings including the Garden of Eden, Abraham's birthplace and Jerusalem's Temple Mount. "We believe the Bible is a living, breathing, vibrant book," said De Graff. "It's historical, cultural, archeologically proven. This kind of quality television production would make the Bible come alive. I believe the Bible is the Word of God. I believe it's telling the truth. I think it's important that everyone has the opportunity to read it and see it, if it can indeed be seen. To a certain extent, it's an act of faith. If it's an opportunity to make money, so be it." The miniseries premiered Wednesday night on PBS; the second and third parts will be shown Jan. 11 and 18.
Philippine Priest Turns Poor Parishioners into Tech-Savvy e-Traders
Father Benigno Beltran of Manila has lived among his parishioners for 27 years, knows their desperate marginalization, and is therefore aggressively pushing a high-tech solution to their poverty, according to a Catholic News Service release. Beltran, pastor of the Parish of the Risen Christ, talks about bandwidth, e-trading and income streams with the ease of a Silicon Valley technophile even within range of the sights and smells of the city’s legendary trash dump: "If the poor are unprepared, if they're still linked to the industrial age when we're living in the cybernetic age, then globalization won't benefit them. So it's the responsibility of the church and civil society to ready the poor… Our faith tells us to move from the garden to the heavenly city." With support from a government university, Father Beltran is training hundreds of poor youth in computer skills. He has obtained computers from the Taiwanese government, won a contract in computer coding from Hong Kong, begun work with a German corporation to begin mining the old dump for heavy metals, sponsored the startup of a composting and recycling business, and worked with women in the dump to manufacture organic health soap. "It's our way of telling the people that God loves them. If you tell them that God loves them and their stomachs are empty, then they'll turn away from you. If you can't mobilize the poor, you're all done as a church," Father Beltran added.