Daily briefs of the top news stories impacting Christians around the world.
In today's edition:
Evangelist Luis Palau Pulls Back
Evangelist Luis Palau told Christianity Today he did not mean to "create problems" for Chinese house church members when he urged them to officially register their churches in order to "receive greater freedom and blessings from the government." Palau's comments at a November press conference in Beijing drew criticism from religious freedom advocates. "Rev. Palau is either unaware of the problems that registration can cause, or perhaps he is aware that if he makes remarks too critical of China's government, it could severely restrict his ministry there," said Paul Marshall, senior fellow at Freedom House's Center for Religious Freedom. "Registration can require revealing all the church's members to the government and exposing all of the church's activities. If the government then wants to crack down, it has all the information it needs." Palau had spoken positively of religious freedom in China, saying that the way house churches register in China "is similar to the way churches must register in the U.S." Palau has since said he regrets making the remarks. "It's not my role as an evangelist to suggest that churches in China should register," he said in a press release responding to criticism. "My role is to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ."
Burma Army Displaces more than 1,200 in Attacks
The Burma Army has displaced more than 1,200 people in attacks against villages and hiding places of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Southern Karenni State. Troops from Burma carried out their attacks against villagers on December 23. Soldiers burned down 26 houses in Gee Gaw Ber village, forcing all 610 residents of the village into hiding. A further 341 people from the nearby village of Toe Ka Htoo fled in fear, while 255 people from Pah Poe are also in hiding. Those newly displaced are now in hiding without shelter and the temperatures in the area are very low. Those who have fled are hiding at heights between 3,500-6,500 feet and the freezing level is between 4,000-5,000 feet. The people of this area of Southern Karenni State have been under constant attack since December 2002 when over 2,000 Karenni and 3,000 Karen were attacked by ten battalions of the Burma Army. Alexa Papadouris, CSW's Advocacy Director, said: "The ongoing attacks against villagers and IDPs in Karenni state highlight the urgent necessity of UN Security Council intervention. While the world stands by, thousands of people every year are losing their lives in Burma."
Waiting for News of Hostages, Christian Peacemaker Teams to Launch D.C. Witness against Iraq War
While members of Christian Peacemaker Teams wait for word on their colleagues - kidnapped in Baghdad more than a month ago - they are planning a two-week event in Washington, D.C. to highlight detainee abuse in Iraq. Since the Nov. 26 disappearance of four team members, Christian Peacemaker Teams "has been overwhelmed by the expressions of support," the Chicago-based nonviolent activist organization said in a statement Friday. "We hope this campaign might provide a framework by which Christians, Muslims, Jews, and people of other faiths can continue to use that supportive energy on behalf of justice for all those detained and victimized by the war in Iraq," they said. From Jan. 15-29, the "Shine the Light" campaign will feature processions, candlelight vigils, and a bit of street drama. They are calling on supporters to come to Washington to join them in protest against the U.S. presence in Iraq. A group named the Swords of Righteousness Brigade sent two videos of the kidnapped men to al Jazeera Nov. 29 and Dec. 2, and let two deadlines for the hostages to be killed pass, but have not communicated with the press in recent weeks.
Homeowners Association Threatens HomeSchool
A Texas family was told by their home owners association to close down their home school or face a lawsuit, according to a report from Family News in Focus. The Houston family combined home school activities - chess club, music class, etc. - with other local home schoolers, which some neighbors called disruptive. Chris Klicka with the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) says active home schools are common. “Families realize that the best home school education is one that brings in outside resources and contributions from other parents; other home school families.” However, a neighbor complained that the family was creating a nuisance and running a day care out of their home, prompting the home owners association to threaten to sue. HSLDA “immediately wrote a letter to the Houston Home Owners Association indicating that this was really wrong and that is was a misapplication of their own covenants,” said Klicka. HSLDA’s involvement caused the homeowners association to back off and the family is continuing their activities.