Religion Today Summaries, July 14, 2003

Compiled & Edited by Crosswalk News Staff

Religion Today Summaries, July 14, 2003

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

  • Imprisoned Pastor Released in Laos  

  • Divide over Religion a Factor in U.S.-European Relations

  • Official Bible Printing Reduced in China

  • Faith-Based Youth Groups Recruited in Drug War

Imprisoned Pastor Released in Laos
Charisma News Service

Succumbing to international pressure, authorities have released a St. Paul, Minn., Hmong pastor and two European journalists recently sentenced to prison for the death of a rural guard. A French cameraman, Belgian photojournalist and Naw-Karl Mua, who had traveled to the Southeast Asian nation to document human rights abuses and religious persecution, were freed Wednesday after European and U.S. diplomats pressured officials. Mua, 44, who leads the Light of Life Lutheran Church, served as the journalists' interpreter. On June 30, a court convicted them of obstructing police work and weapons possession and sentenced them to 15 years in prison. Media advocacy groups also condemned the sentences, saying the three men were punished for reporting on the Hmong rebels' insurgency. The trio was caught in a firefight June 3 between Hmong rebels and villagers in which the guard was killed. The U.S. Embassy in Vientiane said Mua was released on humanitarian grounds, but the men still had to pay damages to the family of the slain village guard as well as fines and court costs. Mua's wife, Sue, wired nearly $2,500 to the Laotian government to cover the costs. Mua returned to St. Paul yesterday. (

Divide over Religion a Factor in U.S.-European Relations
Alexandra Alter, Religion News Service

 As the European Union struggles over whether to reference God and Christianity in its constitution, experts on U.S.-European relations said stark divides between the United States and Europe over the importance of religion may contribute to the rift over foreign policy. At the July 10th conference, experts said conflicting opinions over the separation of church and state, the use of religious language by politicians, and the prominence of faith in the public sphere have accentuated the diplomatic split between Europe and America. Whereas Americans equate freedom with the ability to practice religion openly, Europeans believe freedom is gained by confining religion to the private sphere. Experts also cited President Bush's frequent invocations of God as a major source of diplomatic tension. The president's use of religious rhetoric in articulating his administration's policy toward Iraq, Iran and North Korea, shocked Europeans and reinforced the stereotype of America as a religiously zealous nation.  The stereotype may, in part, be true, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press, which found nearly 60 percent of Americans said religion was important to them, compared to just 11 percent in France and 21 percent in Germany.

Official Bible Printing Reduced in China
Compass Direct

Official Bible production in China has quietly diminished by more than 20 percent over the past three years. The Amity Printing Company based in Nanjing, which prints an annual quota of Bibles, says that 519,493 copies were printed in the first quarter of 2003. This number is on track to reach the target of two million copies "approved for this year." However, from 1994 to 1999, the average number of Bibles printed each year was 2.6 million, indicating a drop of about 23 percent. There is no apparent reason for this decrease other than government policy. The United Bible Societies reported five years ago that "as many as 40 percent of the Christians in China, mostly in remote areas, still do not have their own Bibles." Over 30 million Bibles were legally printed in China over the past two decades. This is a considerable achievement, but if supplies are limited to the two million official copies produced annually, most Christians will have to wait for years to receive a personal copy of the Scriptures.

Faith-Based Youth Groups Recruited in Drug War
Charisma News Service

Despite critics' claim that the program violates the separation between church and state, the Bush administration yesterday called on religious youth groups to join the war against drugs and began dispersing anti-drug informational materials to religious organizations, as part of the president's faith-based initiative. Created by the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the main guidebook, "Pathways to Prevention: Guiding Youth to Wise Decisions," seeks to teach youth leaders how to handle questions and concerns about substance abuse. ONDCP pamphlets, guidebooks and Web sites are only intended as an optional way to empower churches about confronting drug-abuse issues. Recent research suggests religious involvement may reduce adolescent smoking, heavy drinking and marijuana use. Adolescents who consider religion important in their lives were half as likely to use drugs such as marijuana than those who don't, according to a study by the American Psychological Association. Another study, conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, found that teenagers who don't view faith as important are up to four times more likely to smoke marijuana. (